LA PAZ – Enatex, the largest state-run textile company in Bolivia, shut down its operations and laid off 800 employees, who subsequently protested in the streets to demand that the Evo Morales government bring their jobs back.
The workers protested in La Paz after they were unable to enter the factory, then learned that the management had been told Sunday about the plant’s closure by Productive Development Minister Veronica Ramos, union leader Johnny Huanca said.
“They told us the company is finished. We’re closing down because the company is changing direction, and we’re mad,” he said.
“We won’t let them fire more than 800 workers,” Huanca said, promising new anti-government demonstrations in La Paz.
In a statement, Ramos said the company is in for a complete overhaul, and instead of Enatex it will be known as Servicio Nacional Textil.
The minister said the new firm will provide textile manufacturers with “the technology and the experience” developed in the production process.
She also guaranteed that all workers will receive severance pay.
Months ago the factory started having problems paying wages and Christmas bonuses and had to begin closing its stores, despite the government’s efforts to relaunch its products at lower prices.
The government created Enatex in 2012 out of the Ametex firm of entrepreneur Marcos Iberkleid, who previously operated a factory with almost 4,000 employees.
In 2008, however, Iberkleid faced a serious crisis when Bolivia lost the preferential customs conditions that the U.S. had previously granted it.
The Morales government tried to build new markets for Bolivian textiles in Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela and Argentina, but sales in those countries were disappointing.