January 4,TWN, AFP
LA PAZ — Bolivia’s leftist government said Sunday it still intends to raise fuel prices despite violent protests that forced it to abandon a big hike in the price of gasoline and diesel just days after it was announced.
Vice President Alvaro Garcia said, however, that the government will consult the people before raising fuel prices the next time.
Garcia explained that Bolivia — South America’s poorest nation — spends about US$360 million a year subsidizing gasoline prices, and much of the fuel ends up being sold illegally in neighboring countries.
“In the long run that is just not sustainable,” the vice president said. A new price hike “will come in consultation with the Bolivian people. … Together we will prepare for dialogue.”
Garcia had issued a decree Dec. 26 raising the prices of gasoline and diesel by as much as 83 percent, the sharpest increase since 1991.
But the announcement set off violent protests in La Paz, Cochabamba and other Bolivian cities that left 15 people injured.
Union protesters barricaded a key road linking the country’s center to the south, halting truck traffic.