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Bolivia: Evo Sticks to 5% Wage Increase; COB Threatens to Blockade Streets

 

Wages: the president calls for rationality while workers foresee an indefinite strike.


President Evo Morales stuck to the 5% wage increase, ruling out a possibility of revision.  Meanwhile, the Bolivian Workers’ Center (COB) and manufacturing workers will discuss today the possibility of launching an indefinite general strike and street blockade to demand a higher raise.

“This president will never take measures against workers, but workers also have to be rational for the sake of the country,” said Morales at a press conference in the Government Palace upon his return from Argentina.

The Bolivian leader also questioned the motive of workers: “Some sectors (of workers) appear to be infiltrated by the Right that wants to confuse the workers.”

On Tuesday, social sectors affiliated with the COB went on work stoppages, mobilizing for a higher raise than 5%.  The stoppages took place all over the country.  In La Paz, manufacturing workers spearheaded a violent protest to take over the offices of the Labor Ministry; they were put down by the police — fifteen were arrested and at least three were wounded.

The COB called a broad national emergency meeting for today, in La Paz, to assess Tuesday’s strike and to decide on future protest actions.  Jaime Solares, the Departmental Workers’ Center (COD) of Oruno, announced that he will propose at the meeting the launching of an indefinite general strike and street blockade in the next few days.

In the manufacturing sector, the most radical sector in the mobilizations from which even the COB distanced itself, also called a broad national meeting for today, but in Cochabamba, to consider an indefinite strike and street blockade.

In La Paz, late afternoon yesterday, Vice President Álvaro García too reaffirmed the 5% wage increase.

Moreover, the government decided to defend its position by sending delegates to all nine departments, in order to explain why the raise has to be 5%, according to the PAT Network’s report.  Economy Minister Luis Arce went to Santa Cruz; Interior Minister Sacha Llorenti traveled to Tarija; Education Minister Roberto Aguilar made a trip to Potosí; Autonomy Minister Carlos Romero took himself to Oruro; Justice Minister Nilda Copa headed for Cobija.

Also on the road were Government Coordination Vice Minister Wilfredo Chávez (to Sucre) and Formal Education Vice Minister Iván Villa (to Trinidad).  Further, Iván Canelas, the president’s spokesman, trekked to Cochabamba to defend the 5% raise.

Despite the conflict with workers, Public Works Minister Wálter Delgadillo assured that the executive branch “is completely open to dialogue with all sectors.  If there are new proposals, we will implement them; the only condition is that they be discussed — workers are part of the government.”

Nevertheless, voices calling for re-examination of the 5% wage increase are heard within the MAS as well, for Senator David Sánchez criticized the attitude of Minister Arce, whom the senator urged to consider the technical feasibilities of implementing a higher increase in wages.

In front of the seat of government, a picket of manufacturing workers marked today the tenth day of their hunger strike in rejection of the 5% increase.  The wives of police officers today entered the third day of their fast.

Wounded in Tuesday’s March

The Secretary General of the Federation of Factory Workers of La Paz, Wilson Mamani, reported that three were wounded during a violent protest on Tuesday.  They were a factory worker of Embol Enterprise (suffering a broken nose), a worker of the VITA Company (who was hit by a tear gas grenade), and an employee of the Maquite factory (also hit by a tear gas grenade).

Public Prosecutor Will Prosecute Nine Arrested

La Paz’s Office of Public Prosecutions will open proceedings against the nine arrested.  Of the accused, four will be charged with being found with evidence of responsibility for the attempted takeover of the Labor Ministry and five with alleged participation.  The leaders of manufacturing workers demanded their immediate release.

“They are being charged with public incitement to commit a crime, manufacture and possession of explosives, destruction of or damage to government properties, assault on civil servants, and insult to the symbols of the nation,” said Iván Cordova, the prosecutor assigned to the case.

The proceedings will begin in the First Criminal Court of Instruction at 3 PM.


This original article “Evo reitera el 5% y la COB advierte con cerrar vías” was published by La Razon on 6 May 2010.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com).  See, also, “Policías, militares y COB, en pie de guerra por el incremento” (La Razon, 3 May 2010); Franz Chávez, “Morales Faces First Workers Protests” (Inter Press News, 5 May 2010); and “Marcha de trabajadores bolivianos reflejó poca participación y hechos violentos” (TeleSur, 4 May 2010).




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