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Bolivian TV: President offers resignation

Congress must accept if Mesa is to step down

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Bolivia's president says he offered resignation for good of the country.
U.S. State Department
South America

(CNN) -- Bolivian President Carlos Mesa offered his resignation to Congress on Monday after widespread protests which he said were "blocking the country," Bolivian television reported.

In a nationally broadcast television address Sunday night, Mesa -- who has held office less than 18 months -- said he would submit his resignation "so Congress can make a decision" and leave it to lawmakers to decide whether he should quit.

"It is up to your consideration," he said.

Large numbers of Mesa's supporters began to gather outside Bolivia's presidential palace in La Paz after the speech. Ronald MacLean, a former Bolivian presidential candidate, said the announcement appeared to be a gambit to bring out popular support for Mesa's government and secure a new mandate.

"I think he's playing a very hard game of brinksmanship, and he's playing his strongest card," MacLean said.

MacLean predicted that it was unlikely that Congress would vote to accept Mesa's resignation.

Mesa's critics and the opposition Socialists have been leading demonstrations and strikes in hopes of changing the way nation's oil revenue is distributed. Protesters also demanded the cancellation of a contract with a French company to provide water for La Paz, the capital.

Bolivia has long been among South America's poorest countries and a major recipient of international aid. It is also the source of up to a third of the world's cocaine, according to U.S. State Department estimates.

Mesa took office in October 2003 when deadly street demonstrations over free-market economic policies forced his predecessor from office. The vice presidency has remained vacant during Mesa's administration.

By law, if Bolivia's Congress accepts his resignation, the president of Congress, Sen. Hormando Vaca Diez, would become president.

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