Bolivia's president resigns
U.S. troops to assess situation after month of violent clashes
LA PAZ, Bolivia (CNN) -- Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada has resigned after weeks of violent protests that virtually paralyzed the South American nation.
A show of hands in the Bolivian parliament endorsed the resignation, and it was followed by a formal vote by members. Vice President Carlos Mesa was sworn in to succeed Sanchez de Lozada and will serve out the rest of the former president's term, which will end in 2007.
A small U.S. military team will go to the troubled country to assess the security situation, a U.S. Southern Command spokesman said.
The military team will help the U.S. ambassador in La Paz review plans to evacuate American citizens, should that become necessary.
However, a U.S. Southern Command spokesman, Capt. Tom Crosson, said no evacuation is being considered. It is not known how many Americans are in Bolivia.
Public transportation and many other services have ground to a halt as a result of the demonstrations. Flights in and out of the airport in La Paz also have been disrupted.
The conflict began soon after Sanchez de Lozada announced his decision to export natural gas to the United States and Mexico. The mostly indigenous demonstrators called for an overthrow of Sanchez de Lozada's government, and have clashed with soldiers and police.
An estimated 74 people have been killed in the month of protests against the government's pro-U.S., free-market economic policies, Reuters reported. The policies have failed to improve living standards in South America's poorest country.
On Thursday, the State Department urged U.S. citizens not to travel to Bolivia and suggested those in the country leave immediately.
Bolivia's National Congress voted for the resignation after the parliament's secretary read a letter from the president to congress.
In the letter, Sanchez de Lozada said he was putting his resignation before the consideration of the lawmakers.
A scheduled 30-minute debate on the merits of the resignation was suspended, prompting anger among supporters of the president.
The secretary of the congress said the debate on the resignation would take place Monday, even though the initial vote has been taken.
The president and his family left the capital Friday evening and went to the western Bolivian city of Santa Cruz.