March 25, 2017 / 4:50 PM / 4 months ago

Thousands of protesters call for Guinea Bissau leader to quit

2 Min Read

* Public anger growing at political impasse

* Parliament has not convened for more than one year

* Diplomats fear crisis may be exploited by drug traffickers

By Alberto Dabo

BISSAU, March 25 (Reuters) - Thousands of protesters in Guinea Bissau's capital on Saturday demanded President Jose Mario Vaz step down to resolve a political crisis that has paralysed the coup-prone West African country.

Protesters marched through Bissau's streets lined with hedges and palm trees singing and shouting "Jomav out!", using an abbreviation for the president's name. The protest followed a smaller one two weeks ago also demanding that Vaz quit.

The former Portuguese colony has not convened parliament for more than a year and public anger is growing at the failure of regionally-mediated talks to resolve deep rivalries within the political elite.

"Today people have had enough," said Armindo Gomes, one of the activists behind the protest. "We are heading right up to Jose Mario Vaz's bed to make him leave by force."

Vaz has yet to react to the protests, but he has defended his record in government and says he has cracked down on graft.

In August 2015 Vaz sacked Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira, who was popular with Western donors and locals, triggering a crisis that the nomination of several prime ministers since has failed to resolve.

Diplomats fear the current crisis could be exploited by drug traffickers in a highly unstable country that has been a major transport hub for Latin American cocaine. The nation's main legal export is cashew nuts.

Guinea Bissau has witnessed nine coups or attempted coups since 1980. (Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Julia Glover)

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