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In mid-2003, news began to filter out about a state plan to allow foreign corporations to extract natural gas from recently discovered and valuable reserves and to transport it through Chile, Bolivia’s historic adversary, to consumers in California. A broad range of social movements began to stage protests in response. During a military operation to clear road blockades in the historic town of Warisata, on the altiplano of La Paz, an errant bullet took the life of an eight-year-old girl, Marlene Nancy Rojas Ramos, on 20 September.

The repression in Warisata generated popular fury and indignation and contributed to the...

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