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Bolivia opposition stages strike over poll results, Morales likens it to coup

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Bolivia's opposition launched a general strike Wednesday over disputed election results suggesting another term for President Evo Morales, who likened the stoppage to a right-wing coup.

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Speaking to reporters, Morales also said he will take measures to "defend" democracy and is confident he will be declared the winner of Sunday's election with no need for a runoff.

Morales, a former coca farmer and Latin America's longest serving leader, is seeking a fourth straight term. The opposition has reported fraud in the counting of votes from the weekend election.

"A coup is under way. I want the people of Bolivia to know. Until now, humbly, we have put up with it in order to avoid violence and we have not entered into confrontation," Morales said in his first public remarks since the election, referring to the strike and violent anti-government protests that broke out after the election.

>> Watch FRANCE 24s Reporters: Bolivia, the Evo Morales years

Partial results released Sunday night suggested Morales would face off in a second round with his main rival, the centrist Carlos Mesa.

But things changed dramatically Monday when the electoral commission released new results that practically gave the win to Morales, drawing opposition complaints of fraud and triggering rioting in some cities.

Mobs torched electoral offices in Sucre and Potosi, while rival supporters clashed in the capital La Paz.

Monitors from the Organization of American States said they, too, had seen a "drastic and hard to explain change" in the trend of the initial results.

As of early Wednesday, with more than 95—percent of the vote counted, Morales had 46.4 percent compared to 37 percent for Mesa, just shy of the 10—point lead necessary to avoid a runoff, according to the commission.

Representatives of civil society organizations from Bolivia's six regions backed a call to extend a strike originally set for Tuesday in the country's largest city Santa Cruz.

The general strike went into effect at midnight Tuesday and will "continue until democracy and the will of the citizens are respected," the organizations said.

Pro-Morales protests

Meanwhile, an umbrella organization of pro-Morales labor and farmers' unions, CONALCAM, called on its members to defend the official results.

"We will go out on the streets and on the roads to firmly defend democracy and the votes of Bolivians," said the leader of the main union, Juan Carlos Guarachi, after a meeting with Morales.

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