Hit by unrest, Bolivia's capital awakens to uncertainty

Raul BURGOA
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La Paz Mayor Luis Revilla said 64 municipal buses were torched overnight during what he described as "a night of terror"

After a night of looting and arson, Bolivia's capital woke up to drizzle and fog on Monday as the country faces an uncertain future amid a power vacuum.

After the security forces withdrew their support, President Evo Morales resigned on Sunday following three weeks of civil unrest over his disputed re-election.

The streets of La Paz had been left practically without police as the country's security services joined in the demands for Morales to resign and remained in their barracks.

Perched above the city, the country's seat of government, the satellite town of El Alto was struck by a night of looting and arson against shops, municipal buses and the homes of some of the country's leaders.

"La Paz experienced a night of terror. Vandals destroyed 64 Pumakatari buses" run by the local authorities, La Paz Mayor Luis Revilla said.

The streets of La Paz were completely deserted on Monday morning, with little public transport operating.

The 10 lines of Morales' signature public works, the La Paz cable car system, were stationary, leaving people to walk to work on the city's steep slopes.

Some police began returning to their posts, though, after a weekend of strike action.

"We've cut off the viper's head, but the body is still moving," a balaclava-clad policeman told reporters.

Returning to work, he also vowed to "stop the leaders of the disturbances."

- 'A bad dream' -

"It seems like a bad dream, no one knows what's happening. I've been told my office is closed but I'm going there to see," said Alicia, a mother of two in her 30s, as she waited in the south of La Paz for a vehicle that could take her into the center where she works.

Her brother, who works in a government office, "is concerned, he doesn't know if he'll stay there, but he's not a politician. He works out of necessity, he has children," Alicia added.

Close to the presidential residence in La Paz, where Morales used to live, people lined up at the ATM of a privately-owned bank.

"Everything's gone up, (food) prices have tripled," but there were no shortages in markets, said Esperanza, a 56-year-old economist, as she waited her turn to withdraw money.

Even around midday, the city was semi-shut down, with many shops and restaurants closed.

The offices of the state airline BoA were closed but flights arrived normally at the international airport in El Alto, although some foreign companies had canceled flights.

Opposition supporters had erected barricades close to the president's residence, but unlike previous days, there were no clashes with pro-Morales supporters.

"Today I won't go to my office, the transport is paralyzed," a man who imports medicine told AFP.

There was some hope later in the day, though, that the uncertainty would be short-lived as Bolivia's deputy senate speaker, Jeanine Anez vowed to call fresh elections.

Anez is expected to be named on Tuesday as the country's interim president when lawmakers meet.