A movement of panic turned to tragedy in Bolivia. Four students died and 70 were injured Monday at a university in the south-east of the country during a stampede triggered by the explosion of a tear gas canister during an elective assembly.

Between 400 and 500 students gathered in a gymnasium at a university in Potosi to hold student council elections, said university rector Pedro Lopez. According to the police, while the debates were lively between two groups of students, a tear gas canister was thrown. The public hospital in this mining town of 270,000 inhabitants was overwhelmed by the arrival of a large number of injured people and parents looking for their children.

One of the students involved in the grenade throwing “identified”

“We have the confirmed deaths of four people, 70 are injured and five are in intensive care,” said the prosecutor of the Andean region, Roxana Choque. The deceased died “by asphyxiation” and the injured had polycontusions or fractures, she said. Interior Minister Eduardo del Castillo said an investigation has been opened and one of the students involved in the grenade throwing has been “identified”.

Clashes between students are not uncommon in Bolivia and tear gas canisters had already been used in previous confrontations, without resulting in death. In March 2021, 12 students also died at the public university of El Alto, a neighboring town of La Paz, following the collapse of a bleacher during a student assembly.

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