LA PAZ – At least nine people, including four police officers, were injured on Wednesday and 29 were arrested in clashes between protesters and security forces on the first day of the 72-hour strike called by the Bolivian Workers Central, or COB, to oppose the closure of – and 850 layoffs at – the state-run firm Enatex.
The strike began with street blockades and marches in several cities, but the biggest clash was in Cochabamba, where police and workers confronted each other after the latter tried to close the route connecting the region with the western part of the country.
Police fired tear gas at demonstrators to disperse them, while workers responded by beating the police with sticks and hurling stones.
A leader of the Provincial Workers Central, Angel Camacho, told the Cochabamba daily Los Tiempos that five workers were injured in the clash, two of them seriously.
“The police acted with much brutality,” Camacho said.
Police provincial commander Luis Aguilar said, meanwhile, that four officers were injured and 29 people were arrested, including one woman.
In La Paz, miners, teachers, factory workers and health care personnel blocked – until early afternoon – some portions of the highway connecting the city with neighboring El Alto.
Road blockades were also set up and marches undertaken in Tarija, Oruro, Potosi and Santa Cruz, according to television reports.
The COB has been one of President Evo Morales’ main political allies since he took office in 2006, but last week it announced it was breaking its ties with the government over the “unfair” and “neoliberal” closure of Enatex.