A UN envoy has urged the government of Bolivia’s self-proclaimed interim president and supporters of self-exiled leader Evo Morales to begin talks to resolve the country’s political crisis.
The negotiations proposed by envoy Jean Arnault would involve MPs from Mr Morales’s political party, mobilised groups and representatives of interim leader Jeanine Anez and be mediated by the United Nations and the Roman Catholic Church.
At least 23 people have died since the crisis broke out, according to Bolivia’s Ombudsman’s office.
Ms Anez, who declared herself president after Mr Morales resigned on November 10 after weeks of protests against him over disputed election results, has said her priorities are to pacify Bolivia and hold new elections within three months.
Mr Morales’s supporters, who took to the streets after he quit under pressure from the military, are demanding the return of the leader, who was Bolivia’s first indigenous president.
A clash on Friday left nine pro-Morales coca growers dead and led to an ultimatum from protesters for Anez to step down and withdraw troops that have been blocking them from entering central Cochabamba from the nearby town of Sacaba.
Thousands of Catholic faithful prayed for peace on Sunday, which proved a day of relative calm in the crisis that began after the contentious presidential election of October 20 that Mr Morales claimed he won outright, but his opponents contended was fraudulent.
As protests by his foes grew, Mr Morales resigned at the urging of the military and flew to Mexico, which granted him asylum.
Road blockades are causing food and fuel shortages in cities, particularly in the capital of La Paz. People say markets are short of fruits and vegetables.
Pro-Morales MPs control almost two-thirds of the legislature and have called a session for Tuesday to demand the withdrawal of the military, said Sergio Choque, president of the Chamber of Deputies.
Members of Bolivia’s interim government fear pro-Morales legislators will reject Mr Morales’s resignation as president, paving the way for him to return. Mr Morales has said he was ousted by a coup.