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Bolivia President wards off latest threat

Bolivian President Hernan Siles Zuazo's biggest challenge since taking office in 1982 has been warding off a series of military plots to unseat him. He almost lost the battle last weekend. But after eight hours as a hostage in the hands of dissident military units, he emerged to resume control of his nation.

Details of the crisis were still unclear at time of writing. Some 50 or more civilians and military men have been detained, according to reports. But it is known that a crack antinarcotics unit, known as the Leopardos, took part in the weekend kidnapping of the President.

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The Leopardos, who have received some training from agents of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, have frequently been critical of the Bolivian leader.

It is known also that Siles Zuazo has been under increasing military pressure in recent weeks. Only 12 days ago, military commanders in Cochabamba, Bolivia's second city, threatened mutiny, demanding removal of a new commander of an Army training center in that city.

President Siles Zuazo won a public showdown over that encounter with the military. But as the threats to his government mount, ''it is far from certain he can stave off these continuing threats,'' according to a foreign diplomat in La Paz, the Bolivian capital.

Mr. Siles Zuazo is a leftist who is strongly detested by many rightist military men. This may have been a factor in the weekend incident.

Labor had also been putting the pressure on the President, but in light of the situation, decided to call off a general strike scheduled to start this week.

Earlier this year two hunger strikes by union activists - supported by thousands of striking workers - forced President Siles Zuazo to freeze prices, grant wage increases, and suspend payments on Bolivia's $4.4 billion foreign debt.

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