LATIN AMERICA

Argentina braces for transport stoppage

Bolivia reaches pact with striking police officers after five days of violence

Madrid -
Police march through Bolivia after confronting indigenous peoples faithful to President Evo Morales.
Police march through Bolivia after confronting indigenous peoples faithful to President Evo Morales.EFE

Defying warnings by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina's powerful truckers union prepared to stage a one-day strike on Wednesday to demand lower taxes in a move that was expected to bring the entire country to a standstill.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Bolivia, a five-day strike by police officers came to a close after they reached an agreement with the government of President Evo Morales on pay and internal rules of conduct. Police stations across the country were destroyed and dozens of people were injured during the nationwide protest by lower-ranking officers, which at one point Morales claimed was a coup attempt against his leftist government.

It was the latest in a string of protests and demonstrations that has rocked the Morales administration, which is halfway through its second five-year term. The Bolivian government, however, could face more unrest in the coming days when groups representing various indigenous communities protesting a planned road through the Amazon are expected to arrive in La Paz later on Wednesday following a two-month long march. The Indians are against a planned referendum over the $420-million highway through the pristine Isiboro Sécure national park.

Past marches by the indigenous communities have been peaceful. Many of their leaders claim that Morales, an Aymara Indian, has turned his back on his people and went against a promise he made last year when he canceled the road project.

Fernández de Kirchner warned the union it would not accomplish its goals

In Buenos Aires, thousands began gathering at press time in the Argentinean capital's main artery, Avenida 9 de Julio, for a big rally called by the powerful CGT union boss Hugo Moyano.

Once a staunch supporter of Fernández and her husband and predecessor, the late Néstor Kirchner, Moyano has accused the government of ignoring workers.

The 200,000-strong truckers union, backed by their supporters, said they were prepared to block traffic around Avenida 9 de Julio and hold a large rally outside the Casa Rosada presidential palace.

On Tuesday, Fernández de Kirchner warned the union that it would not accomplish its goals by staging the strike. "This president will keep on working tirelessly and every day. No extortion, no threat, insult or injury will keep me from that path," she said, standing beside a model bearing the image of Evita Perón, who was beloved by the unions.

The Argentinean media has suggested that Moyano selected June 27 to hold his strike because it was the same date 37 years ago on which the country's unions came together in a general strike that would eventually lead to the overthrow the following year of the government of María "Isabel" Estela Martínez de Perón.

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