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Clashes as acting Bolivia leader aims to end power vacuum

Clashes as acting Bolivia leader aims to end power vacuum

La Paz: Bolivia's interim president Jeanine Anez moved Wednesday to fill the power vacuum left by the resignation of Evo Morales, who said he was ready to return from exile in Mexico to "pacify" the country, as riot police clashed with his supporters and one was killed.

Anez, a 52-year-old deputy senate speaker before proclaiming herself acting president on Tuesday -- a move endorsed by the Constitutional Court -- named 11 cabinet ministers and appointed a new military high command.

In a press conference at the presidential palace, she reiterated a pledge to "hold elections in the shortest possible time."

Anez named former diplomat Karen Longari as foreign minister, and a right-wing senator, Arturo Murillo, as minister for the interior.

Her economy minister Jose Luis Parada worked for the local government in the wealthy eastern province of Santa Cruz, an opposition bastion.

Rejecting Morales' claims that her presidency amounted to a coup, she said: "There is no coup in Bolivia. There is a constitutional replacement."

"The only coup d'Etat in this country has been by Evo Morales," she said, referring to a 2016 referendum that blocked the ex-president from running for re-election, but which Morales had overturned by the Constitutional Court.

Riot police fired tear gas during clashes with hundreds of Morales' supporters who marched towards the presidential palace to protest Anez's appointment.

A 20-year-old man was shot and killed in a village near the eastern city of Santa Cruz during a clash between Morales supporters and police, a doctor said.

Bolivia has been in political turmoil since a controversial October 20 election in which Morales was awarded a fourth term as president.

Opposition figures cried foul, claiming electoral fraud, and an audit by the Organization of American States (OAS) found clear evidence of vote count manipulation.

Ten people have now died and more than 400 have been injured in the protests, according to prosecutors. A previous toll put the number of deaths at eight.

On Wednesday, demonstrations took place in Morales strongholds of El Alto, around 20 kilometers (nine miles) from La Paz, and El Chapare, a coca-growing region in the center of the country.

The La Paz clashes took place three blocks from the presidential palace, where Anez was presiding over the appointments of the new military top brass.

Anez praised the "democratic disposition of the Armed Forces and police" who abandoned Morales last weekend, prompting him to resign on Sunday after weeks of protests.

Police units in various parts of the country had rebelled on Friday, siding with opposition supporters.

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