Reed Lindsay, Washington Times, Mar. 9
LA PAZ, Bolivia — Bolivian President Carlos Mesa late yesterday withdrew his threat to resign, defying warnings by indigenous leaders of a new wave of street protests that would paralyze the impoverished country.
The Bolivian leader walked through La Paz’s main square, then told a dramatic late-night session of Congress that he would stay in office.
“We have been given a new opportunity. The country is clamoring for us to work together,” Mr. Mesa told Congress.
The surprising turn of events was a major political victory for the embattled leader and a setback for the nation’s combative indigenous-based movements, which had staged street protests and highway blockades.
Most of the road blockades and demonstrations began after the lower house of parliament on Thursday passed legislation maintaining the 18 percent royalty that foreign companies must pay to extract oil and gas.
The demonstrators are demanding that this royalty be raised to 50 percent. Mr. Mesa argues that such an increase would drive away investors.