LA PAZ – The Bolivian drivers’ union on Sunday called on its members to begin an open-ended general strike to reject the increase of between 57 percent to 82 percent in the prices of different grades of fuel announced by the administration of President Evo Morales, who is visiting Venezuela delivering humanitarian aid.
The so-called general strike on Monday was decided upon by union leaders at their emergency meeting, union chief Franklin Duran said in a press conference.
The union is asking the national unions to attend an assembly in La Paz on Tuesday “to take other measures that will halt this gasoline-blow,” Duran said.
The union is the largest in the transportation sector and has 175,000 members around the country.
Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, who is acting as interim president while Morales is in Venezuela, announced the fuel price increase and other measures to ameliorate its effects in the economy.
The cost of a liter of gasoline is rising from 53 cents to 91 cents (a 72 percent hike), a liter of premium gasoline is rising from 68 cents to 1 dollar (57 percent) and a liter of diesel is jumping from 52 cents to 96 cents (82 percent).
The transportation sector “cannot subject itself” to the decisions of the Morales administration because the new cost of fuel “will affect the economy not only of the transport workers but also of the population related to them,” Duran said.
“There will be a multiplier effect” in the cost of other products used by the transport workers like oils, fats and labor, which could spill over to make transport services rise in price by up to 122 percent, the union leader said.
Garcia Linera justified the decision on the fuel price hike with the argument that it is necessary to halt the smuggling to neighboring countries of fuel that was subsidized by the state this year to the tune of $380 million.