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Luis Fernando Camacho, the opposition governor of the Santa Cruz region in Bolivia, surrounded by people 2019
Camacho unsuccessfully ran for president in 2020Image: Daniel Walker/AFP

Bolivia detains opposition leader, sparking protests

December 29, 2022

Luis Fernando Camacho's detention lead to renewed social unrest by residents of the restive Santa Cruz region. Police later announced Camacho had been arrested on "terrorist" charges.


Luis Fernando Camacho, the governor of Santa Cruz, was arrested by Bolivian police on Wednesday on "terrorist" charges, sparking street brawls between his supporters and law enforcement.

"We inform the Bolivian people that the Bolivian police executed an arrest warrant against Luis Fernando Camacho," Interior Minister Eduardo del Castillo said.

He said Camacho was taken to La Paz, the administrative capital, for questioning.

Former right-wing presidential candidate Camacho was being investigated for a number of allegations, including his suspected involvement in the ouster of socialist president Evo Morales in 2019 and his alleged participation in inciting unrest in Santa Cruz this year.

The public prosecutor's office stated that Camacho was charged with "terrorism" in connection with his efforts to oust Morales. They did not provide any more details.

What more is known about Camacho's detention?

Footage of the incident, shared on social media, shows Camacho being handcuffed on the roadside while surrounded by armed law enforcement officers.

Martin Camacho, the governor's lawyer, told the local newspaper El Deber that his client was being taken to the capital of La Paz to answer questions in cases opened against him.

How has the Santa Cruz government reacted?

The Santa Cruz government described Camacho's detention as a "kidnapping" following a "completely irregular police operation."

"The operation to kidnap the governor was carried out in the streets near his home, as he was returning from his duties," the Santa Cruz government said.


Following Camacho's arrest, his supporters torched the regional prosecutor's office in Santa Cruz.

No injuries were reported.

They also blocked off roads with paving stones, tree branches, and cars demanding his release.

In an unsuccessful attempt to prevent his transfer to La Paz, dozens of Camacho's supporters gathered at Santa Cruz's two airports. Flights at both airports had to be suspended.

Camacho butted heads with La Paz

The governor recently helped lead weeks of protests against President Luis Arce's administration.

Protesters demanded a censusto increase representation in the national legislature and access to state funds for the opposition stronghold of Santa Cruz.

While a census was scheduled for 2024, the protesters called for it to be held next year to accurately reflect Santa Cruz's growing economic and population size in the legislature.

Camacho was also a prominent figure in the large protests in 2019 that resulted in the removal of President Evo Morales from power after elections were deemed fraudulent by the Organization of American States.

The protests caused social unrest and resulted in 37 deaths, leading to Bolivia's most severe institutional crisis in recent years.

lo, ss/ar (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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