LA PAZ – Six people died and 30 others were hurt Wednesday when protesters stormed the city hall in El Alto and started fires, Bolivian authorities said.
La Paz provincial health chief Freddy Valle and the director of Hospital Boliviano Holandes, Gonzalo Fernandez, told a press conference that three men and three women died of smoke inhalation.
The El Alto city attorney was among the fatalities.
The violence arose from a demonstration by parents demanding that El Alto Mayor Soledad Chapeton increase the resources devoted to schools in Bolivia’s second-largest city.
A mob overpowered security guards and burst into city hall.
One city employee told EFE that the protesters burned documents in a first-floor office and then ascended to the third story, where they set another blaze.
The employee said she and her colleagues on the third floor climbed out windows and onto the roofs of neighboring buildings, from where they were lowered to the ground by a crane.
Bolivia’s police commander, Gen. Edgar Tellez, told Panamericana radio that protesters obstructed firefighters arriving to put out the blaze, forcing the cops to deploy tear gas to clear a path.
Deputy Interior Minister Marcelo Elio said that members of Chapeton’s administration engineered the incident through the actions of provocateurs “infiltrated” among the demonstrators.
El Alto, which with La Paz forms Bolivia’s largest metropolitan area, has traditionally been a stronghold of leftist President Evo Morales, but Chapeton, candidate of the main opposition, won last year’s mayoral election.
Bolivians will go to the polls Sunday in a referendum on whether to alter the constitution to allow Morales to seek what would be a fourth consecutive term.