Teachers Clash with Police in Bolivia

Violence broke out in the Bolivian city of El Alto, as police cracked down on a teachers’ protest.

On Friday, around 5,000 teachers were demonstrating to demand higher wages.

A squadron of 700 police officers was firing teargas and pellets as they tried to break up the teachers, who were blocking a highway.

The teachers held their ground by hurling rocks and other projectiles towards the police.

The violence lasted more than five hours, and at least four were injured.

These blue-collar workers helped elect Evo Morales into the presidency.

He is the country’s first indigenous leader, and he had led similar protests in the past that ousted two presidents.

Now, these groups are starting to question his leadership.

[Rural teacher]:
“This government doesn’t listen to us. It has said there is a change, but we haven’t seen any changes. It is the same as all governments. They told us that once Evo was in, there would be better pay for teachers, but we are in the worst state of misery ever.”

Morales was forced to leave a public event in Yacuiba on Thursday, with protesters firing teargas at the venue.

In Tarija the next day, protesters clashed with police and prevented Morales from appearing.

Protests began last week in the capital La Paz and have now spread to nine departments. Labor groups are calling for a 15 percent wage increase as consumer prices rise.

Other labor groups such as urban teachers, miners and health professionals are holding their own demonstrations throughout Bolivia.

The government already approved a 10 percent wage increase for teachers, soldiers and police, and has said it cannot afford more.

The roadblocks have brought main highways to a standstill across the country and have left tourists stranded.

The workers are demanding to speak directly with Morales and have vowed to hold their lines until they reach a deal with the government.

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