Angry protesters attacked the mayor of a small city in Bolivia on Wednesday, hacking off her hair, dousing her with red paint and dragging her barefoot through the streets amid country-wide clashes over the results of a recent election.
Police and firefighters had to step in to save Mayor Patricia Arce from the angry mob in Vinto, a town of approximately 52,000 in central Bolivia.
The attack was just one instance of broader unrest in Bolivia, which has descended into violence and protests since the president won a disputed victory in last month’s election.
The anti-government mob originally kidnapped Arce from city hall, amid rumours that two of their own had been killed by pro-government forces. One of those deaths was later confirmed.
Masked protesters called Arce a murderer and dragged her for nearly five kilometres before they cut off her hair and doused her with paint, local newspaper Los Tiempos reports. They also forced her to sign a resignation letter and torched parts of city hall.
The unrest dates back to Oct. 20, when President Evo Morales won re-election amid allegations of fraud. Morales’ two main opponents have denounced the result, triggering political violence throughout the country.
Mayor Arce belongs to the Movement to Socialism (MAS) party — the same party as President Morales. The MAS has blamed opposition protesters for attacking Arce.
Morales condemned the attack on Arce in a tweet on Wednesday.
“All my solidarity with our sister, mayor of Vinto, Patricia Arce, who was cruelly harassed for expressing and defending her ideals and the principles of the poorest,” he tweeted in Spanish.
Backers of opposition leader Carlos Mesa say results from the Oct. 20 vote were rigged to give Morales just enough of a majority to avoid a runoff he might lose.
Morales has denied the allegations, saying that he welcomes an international audit of the election. He’s also accused Mesa of staging a coup d’etat.
Pro- and anti-Morales protesters have clashed in several cities across the country, resulting in several deaths.
—With files from Reuters and The Associated Press