There were angry scenes in Cochabamba last week after the left wing central government insisted that a right wing regional governor be allowed to return to the city.
Earlier this month, demonstrators forced governor Manfred Reyes Villa to flee the city after he attempted to call a referendum on autonomy from the central government.
They formed a popular assembly and elected a 'people's prefecture' (Protesters take on the right in Cochabamba, 20 January).
The rebellion in Cochabamba, Bolivia's third largest city, spread to other regions, including El Alto, where farmers and workers blocked traffic demanding the resignation of their governors.
The demand for autonomy – rejected in a referendum last July – is an attempt by the right wing to undermine limited reforms proposed by Bolivia's left wing president Evo Morales.
The government ignored the demands of the popular assembly, insisting that their struggle remain within 'democratic legality'.
The assembly accused Morales of attempting to undermine the movement that brought him to power. Last week Reyes Villa slipped back into the city and set up his headquarters in a five star hotel.
In the year since Evo Morales was swept to power, he has backpeddled on promises of reforms, including land redistribution and nationalisation of the oil and gas industry and the prosecution of officials involved in human rights abuses.