Bolivian President Evo Morales and opposition leaders have agreed to negotiate a settlement in the increasingly turbulent political conflict dividing that country. South American leaders meeting in an emergency summit this week encouraged the talks and called on all parties to cease the violence, which threatens the stability of the entire Andes region. The United States commends Chile's leadership in organizing the meeting and hopes that Bolivia's neighbors remain engaged to help facilitate a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Protests have erupted in four Bolivian states over Mr. Morales's effort to overhaul the constitution, bolster the authority of the central government and claim a larger share of state energy revenue. Some provincial leaders, meanwhile, are pressing for more autonomy from La Paz. There have been violent clashes between Mr. Morales's supporters and anti-government protestors, resulting in at least 17 deaths, seizure of government buildings and the arrest of the governor of one of the restive states.
Mr. Morales and opposition leaders agreed in May to try to negotiate their differences, but the political situation continued to deteriorate, as both sides appeared to stick tighter to their positions following referenda victories last month. Instead of reconciliation, a state of emergency now holds in some areas.
Such a standoff is in no one’s interest. Instead of consolidating his authority, Mr. Morales is faced with a severely polarized nation.
The U.S. urges all parties to renounce violence and actions that undermine democracy and the constitutional process. The concerns of all parties may best be addressed through dialogue.