13 foreign tourists stranded by Bolivia strikes: diplomat

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Eleven French nationals and two Britons remained trapped Sunday in the strike-bound mining city of Potosi, the French ambassador said, complaining of official indifference to their plight.

His comments came a day after the police commander, General Oscar Nina, said most foreign tourists had been evacuated from the city, which has been cut off from the outside world for 18 days by labor unrest.

Ambassador Antoine Grassin told AFP that seven Spaniards and seven British nationals made it out of the city on Thursday with the governor of the region, but no French nationals.

Two Danes also were able to get out on a private plane, leaving the French as "the only hostages in Potosi."

He said the police "have done nothing," for the stranded French, who he complained have been "completely forgotten."

In addition to the French tourists, there were 22 other French citizens who were involved in humanitarian projects in the region but they were not planning to leave until August 24.

Protesters on July 29 cut off all road, rail and -- briefly -- air links to Potosi demanding more government investment in their impoverished region.

Site of the biggest salt flats in the world and possibly the richest lithium deposits as well, Uyuni, in Potosi department, is one of Bolivia's top tourist attractions. It borders Oruro department.

The protesters are demanding that nearby mines in this city some 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) above the sea level be reopened. They also want the local airport expanded, a cement factory, and government action on ending a long-running boundary dispute with Oruro.

They claim socialist President Morales' government has made plenty of promises, but has not delivered on them.

Morales was reelected in December to a second mandate by an overwhelming 64 percent of the vote, mostly from Bolivia's poor, indigenous populated regions like Potosi.

© 2010 AFP

1 Comment To This Article

  • BoliviaBella posted:

    on 16th August 2010, 02:18:19 - Reply

    Aerosur Airlines sent a solidarity flight to Sucre and will be taking provisions from there to Potosí by land. They are offering to bring any tourists left in Potosí back to Sucre with them in private vehicles and the airline will give them a FREE flight from Sucre to any other Bolivian city they need to get to. Stranded tourists can go to the Aerosur office in Potosí to request this help. Here are the details: http://www.boliviabella.com/bolivian-airline-aerosur-offers-free-flights-to-tourists-trapped-in-potosi-protests.html