The Catholic aid agency CAFOD has supported calls by the Bolivian bishops to the government of Bolivia to act with restraint in response to a wave of protest sweeping the country. In Rome the Pope has appealed for prayers and an end to the violence. CAFOD is extremely concerned by the deaths that have resulted from the security force reaction to the demonstrations. With the Bolivian bishops, it believes that the government must avoid a violent response that threatens to destabilise the country. Scores of people have died in riots sparked by the government plan to sell off Bolivia's natural gas resources. But CAFOD says the protests are rooted in increasing poverty and a sense that the political establishment is not interested in ordinary people. CAFOD supports the following statement made by the Bolivian bishops: "Bolivians cannot go on killing each other. We must seek to create a climate of calm in order to find, together, solutions to our country's problems. "The current situation demands profound changes, directed at bringing peace and well-being to Bolivia. We appeal to the President, in his commitment to defend the institutions of the state and democracy, not to rule out any option, but to work for urgent non-authoritarian solutions in order to avoid further bloodshed. "We appeal to the armed forces and the police to carry out their duties with respect and concern to preserve the lives of citizens and avoid provocation and confrontation. "We urge our people and its leaders, despite the pain of recent days, to keep protest peaceful and avoid violent acts that damage fraternal harmony." CAFOD's Latin America Programme co-ordinator Francis McDonagh said: "We urge the British government to use its influence and its development aid to Bolivia to promote negotiated solutions to the social conflict and encourage the government to develop serious anti-poverty programmes." 'Pope John Paul II. at the end of yesterday morning's general audience in Saint Peter's square, said: "The news coming from Bolivia, where a grave crisis is underway, with many dead and injured, is very worrying. I wish to express my spiritual solidarity to those that suffer, and I call upon everyone to pray so that God inspires the parties in conflict to begin dialogue and create fair solutions to the problems that afflict the nation".
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