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Bolivia hotel blast kills 2 in capital

Bomb blasts that ripped through two budget hotels overnight in La Paz killed two people, and Bolivian authorities said  Wednesday they were questioning two foreigners arrested after the explosions.
/ Source: Reuters

Bomb blasts that ripped through two budget hotels overnight in La Paz killed two people, and Bolivian authorities said Wednesday they were questioning two foreigners arrested after the explosions.

La Paz prosecutor Jorge Gutierrez said a man believed to be an American and a Uruguayan woman were arrested in connection with the blasts, which devastated the downtown hotels, blowing out windows in neighboring buildings and showering the roads with debris.

President Evo Morales, a leftist who regularly criticizes Washington, said the bombings seemed politically motivated and decried that one of the suspects appeared to be from the United States.

“The U.S. government fights against terrorism; it’s not possible that people from the United States come to put bombs in hotels,” Morales said in speech in the eastern city of Santa Cruz.

There was no immediate comment from the U.S. Embassy in La Paz.

The first explosion occurred around 9:50 p.m., killing two people and injuring four others, firefighters said.  The second blast came four hours later.

“There was a massive explosion and the building was practically destroyed,” a man staying at the second hotel told Reuters by phone as he stood in the street in his pajamas.

“No one was hurt because the police evacuated the hotel about 10 minutes before,” he added, asking not to be named.

Officials have not yet named the victims, but a medical worker said a young American woman and a Colombian were among the injured.

Soon after the second explosion, police arrested the two foreign suspects in the city of El Alto, which borders La Paz.

“Both were carrying cartridges of dynamite and detonators.  The woman is Uruguayan and the man says he is from the United States. We are gathering information from immigration to establish when they entered the country,” Gutierrez, the prosecutor, told reporters.

Morales, who has described his socialist movement as a nightmare for the United States, called on the international community to condemn the bombings and vowed tough punishment for the culprits.

“Some groups in Bolivia, oligarchs, are interested in using foreign agents to make threats,” he said. “We will deal harshly with the conspirators.”

It is not the first time Morales’s government has made unspecified suggestions about the existence of plots to destabilize his government.

Morales has formed close ties with U.S. regional antagonists Fidel Castro of Cuba and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has also accused Washington of plotting against Bolivia’s first indigenous president.