Bolivian President Evo Morales and opposition leaders toughened their rhetoric on Sunday, as a political standoff over the country's disputed presidential election entered its second week.
Former President Carlos Mesa, Morales' closest rival in the October 20 vote, said a new election was the best way to resolve the crisis.
"We believe... that the best solution to this crisis in the current circumstances is a new election, administered by an impartial new [electoral body] and with rigorous observation of the international community," he said.
Opposition leaders have alleged election fraud, and supporters of Mesa and Morales clashed in the aftermath of the election. Two people were killed in protests on Wednesday, the first deaths reported since the unrest erupted.
Luis Fernando Camacho, a conservative opposition leader in the country's eastern Santa Cruz region, gave Morales two days to step down and called on the military to "be on the side of the people."
Morales accuses opposition of stoking violence
Morales, in power for nearly 14 years, responded by accusing the opposition of seeking to spark deadly violence.
"They want people to be killed by the police and the military," he said in a televised interview.
Interior Minister Carlos Romero alleged a "coup strategy" was under way.
"Whoever asks for military intervention is asking for blood and is asking for death," Romero said.
The results of the October 20 election sparked protests after the vote count was halted for over 24 hours when it appeared the election was headed for a second round.
After vote counting was resumed, Morales was declared the outright winner after barely clearing the 10 percentage point margin needed for victory.
The Organization of American States is carrying out an audit of the vote, while the European Union has backed calls for a runoff election.
Morales is Bolivia's first indigenous president and the region's longest-ruling leader. He has faced growing dissatisfaction in recent years, particularly over his refusal to accept the results of a 2016 referendum on keeping presidential term limits.
rs/cmk (AFP, Reuters)