October 17, 2007 / 7:06 PM / 12 years ago

Bolivians ransack bar district in anti-crime move

EL ALTO, Bolivia, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Bolivians fed up with underage drinking and crime stormed a neighborhood of bars and brothels in the impoverished El Alto slum outside La Paz on Wednesday, setting beds, television sets and chairs on fire.

Vigilantes have stormed the red-light district three days running, complaining it is a haven for criminals and that the bars there serve alcohol to minors.

They want local authorities to shut them down.

"There is a lot of violence here because of the bars... We want them out. The authorities aren’t doing anything so we have to burn them down," said Lucy Quispe, a 45-year-old mother of three who lives near the problem area.

"The police are accomplices ... we are throwing stones at them as well," she told Reuters.

According to local media reports as many as 50 drinking establishments have been destroyed since the protests started on Monday.

Hundreds of students joined in the demonstrations on Wednesday, pelting store fronts with stones and shouting "the bars are destroying our lives".

El Alto, just north of Bolivia’s administrative capital La Paz, is one of the largest urban areas in Bolivia, with nearly 1 million inhabitants, mostly Aymara and Quechua Indians.

Lynch-mob attacks against suspected criminals are commonplace in El Alto. People in this urban area of unpaved streets and mud-brick houses have long complained that police do not do enough to fight rampant crime.

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