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May 27, 1998

The government of Bolivia on Wednesday sought assistance from the Organization of American States (OAS) to handle the damage by earthquakes that rocked the country recently, leaving scores of dead and wounded.

Updating the OAS Permanent Council on the "tragic events that have struck the country at its most sensitive nerve--the poor," the alternate representative of Bolivia to the OAS, Alberto Quiroga, said successive earthquakes had hit large sections of his country's central region, causing considerable loss in terms of human life and settlements, communications infrastructure and crops.

"As a result of the damage inflicted, there will be greater exodus from the country to the city," the Bolivian representative warned. "My country will have to somehow immediately cut back the programs its had for alternative development, because our projects are in fact specifically earmarked for natural habitat for rural populations in the central village of Cochabamba," he added.

During the Council session, the Bolivian delegate asked the OAS which, he said, "has never refused support," to help with this endeavor through its Inter-American Emergency Assistance Fund (FONDEM) and the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF).

"We are facing a very disastrous situation," Mr. Quiroga added, noting that humanitarian aid was needed for urban rehabilitation, agricultural recovery and resettlement of people in the affected communities. "We want to specially recognize the aid we have received from our neighbors and other countries of the hemisphere, particularly from Peru's president, Alberto Fujimori, who personally toured the disaster area," he added.

Permanent Council chairman, Ambassador Michael Arneaud of Trinidad and Tobago thanked Mr. Quiroga for the update and asked him to convey the Council's "deepest sympathies to President Hugo Bánzer Suárez and to the government and people of Bolivia at this time of grief."

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