LA PAZ – Seven people were arrested in connection with last September's massacre of central government supporters in the northern province of Pando, Bolivia's deputy interior minister said Wednesday.
Marcos Farfan told a press conference that the accused were detained in the wee hours and arrived in La Paz at midday.
He justified the pre-dawn arrests by noting that the seven spent more than a month defying subpoenas from the court presiding over the investigation into the Sept. 11 killings in Pando.
Between 13 and 20 peasant supporters of socialist President Evo Morales were slain while marching toward the provincial capital to confront separatists allied with Pando's then-governor, Leopoldo Fernandez.
Several Fernandez partisans were also killed in the incident.
Of the score of people accused in the massacre, only eight are in custody: Fernandez and the seven individuals picked up Wednesday, said Mary Carrasco, an attorney representing the victims' families.
The killings came as militants demanding virtual independence for the lowland provinces that hold the lion's share of Bolivia's estimated 48 trillion cubic feet of natural gas stormed government buildings, blocked roads and attacked energy infrastructure.
In the wake of the Pando bloodbath, the army occupied the province and the governors of the other restive regions entered negotiations with the central government.
Eventually, those talks paved the way for a referendum on a new constitution drafted by Morales supporters at a Constituent Assembly largely boycotted by the rightist opposition.
Approved in the plebiscite, the new charter aims to empower the country's long-oppressed Indian majority and narrow the 90-1 gap in wealth between the richest and poorest fifth of the population.
Morales is the country's first indigenous president. EFE