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Bolivian Mayor Has Hair Forcibly Cut by Masked Protesters as Post-Election Violence Continues

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The mayor of a city in Bolivia was beaten, dragged through the streets barefoot, covered in red paint and had her hair forcibly cut by a crowd of masked protestors on Wednesday in what appears to be the latest outburst of political violence after a contested election last month.

Patricia Arce, the mayor of Vinto in Bolivia, is a member of President Evo Morales’s Movement to Socialism (MAS) party. The party blamed the attack on opposition protestors, according to local media.

Protesters marched to Vinto city hall in anger following reports of deaths caused when pro-government supporters, who were allegedly sent by the mayor, tried to break up anti-government blockade, local media said.

Arce was forced to walk to a bridge in Vinto, a small town in central Bolivia, by a crowd of masked protesters. There she was forced to kneel down for her hair to be cut and her body sprayed red.

She was then forced to hold a metal pole as she was paraded, barefoot, around the streets with red paint covering her face, hair and clothes.

In a video circulating on social media, Arce, surrounded by masked protestors said: “I’m not afraid to tell my truth. And I’m in a free country. And I’m not going to shut up and if they want to kill me, they kill me. As I’ve said before, for this process of change, I will give my life.”

The protestors, armed with wooden batons and stones, also set fire to the city hall, according to local media reports.

Arce was rescued by Police in Vinto after several hours of being tormented by protesters.

Police rescue Vinto mayor Patricia Arce Guzman on a motorcycle after people threw paint and dirt on her following a fire in Vinto's Town Hall in Bolivia
Police rescue Vinto mayor Patricia Arce Guzman on a motorcycle after people threw paint and dirt on her following a fire in Vinto's Town Hall, in Quillacollo, Bolivia, on Nov. 6, 2019.Daniel James—Los Tiempos Bolivia via Reuters

At least three people have been killed in the violent clashes between supporters of Morales’s government and opponents in the wake of controversial presidential elections on Oct. 20.

Morales condemned the attack on Arce. In a tweet in Spanish, he said: “All my solidarity with our sister, mayor of Vento, Patricia Arce, who was kidnapped and cruelly harassed for expressing and defending her ideals and the principles of the poorest.

“We condemn the violent actions that cause grief and pain in the Bolivian family,” Morales added.

Morales, Bolivia’s longest ruling leader with 14 years in office, has been accused by his nearest rival for the presidential election, Carlos Mesa, of “a monumental fraud” to get re-elected. The vote is bitterly disputed.

Allegations of fraud emerged on election day after officials abruptly stopped reporting vote results. Morales was beating the eight other candidates at the time of the cutoff, but was also falling short of the percentage needed to avoid a runoff election. A day later, on Oct. 21, the officials released an updated figure showing a sudden surge in Morales’ vote percentage. The figures showed Morales just 0.7% short of the 10-percentage point advantage needed to avoid a runoff.

The European Union and the U.N. expressed concern about the vote, but Morales rejected a request by the Organization of American States for the vote to go to a second round because of the concerns.

On Oct. 24, Morales declared himself the outright winner of the presidential election.

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