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Bolivians attack Venezuelan army plane with stones
December 6, 2007 / 10:44 PM / 10 years ago

Bolivians attack Venezuelan army plane with stones

LA PAZ, Dec 6 (Reuters) - In a violent show of anti-Venezuela sentiment, a crowd of about 200 Bolivians hurled stones at a Venezuelan military plane and prevented it from refueling after it landed on Thursday, local radio reported.

After hearing the incoming plane, the mob seized control of the airport in the Amazonian city of Riberalta and attacked the aircraft. Regional leaders had said they suspected it was carrying arms and not humanitarian supplies, according to the radio reports.

"We won’t put up with these Venezuelans who come to the country and do whatever they want. We won’t let any Venezuelan planes come here," Mario Aguilera, a Riberalta opposition leader told Erbol radio as the demonstrators chanted "Independence, Independence".

The incident forced the plane to take off without being able to refuel and the provincial airport director told Erbol it eventually landed across the border in Brazil.

Bolivia’s leftist President Evo Morales has formed close ties with his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez since taking office last year, and his rightist opponents repeatedly criticize increased humanitarian and military cooperation.

Tensions have heightened in recent weeks between Morales and the opposition, which is concentrated in lowland provinces including Beni, where Riberalta lies some 435 miles (700 km) north of La Paz.

Venezuela is helping build river defenses in the province after devastating floods earlier this year. (Reporting by Carlos Quiroga; Writing by Helen Popper; editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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