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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 October, 2003, 01:17 GMT 02:17 UK
Bolivians protest at gas plan
By Elliott Gotkine
BBC South America correspondent in La Paz

In Bolivia, protests against the country's plans to export natural gas have continued.

A day after the country's main union called an indefinite strike, thousands of teachers took to the streets to demand higher wages and the resignation of President Gonzales Sanchez de Losada.

Demonstrators against the privatisation plan
The gas privatisation plan has mobilised public anger
The streets of La Paz reverberated to the explosive sound of firecrackers.

Roads were blocked and traffic brought to a standstill by Tuesday's demonstrations, which were bolstered by the support of thousands of teachers and peasant farmers.

Most of the main protest had petered out by around lunchtime and life in La Paz returned to normal.

Elsewhere, blockades of some of the country's main thoroughfares continued.

Poverty

The protesters' objectives are varied, but the central rallying cry for the current civil unrest is Bolivia's plan to export natural gas.

Mindful of the country's disastrous privatisations of the past, few of which have benefited the country, Bolivians fear the same will happen to their natural gas.

The government's minister for economic development told the BBC he understood the protesters' concerns but maintained that the terms of the deal to export natural gas had yet to be finalised.

But natural gas is not the only problem.

Peasant farmers want better land reform, teachers want more money, and coca growers want the government to stop eradicating their crops.

Coca is grown for traditional uses and is also used in the production of cocaine.

Some two-thirds of Bolivians live in poverty in what is South America's poorest country.


SEE ALSO:
Bolivian village under siege
24 Sep 03  |  Americas
Call for calm after Bolivia clashes
22 Sep 03  |  Americas
Bolivia gas plans trigger unrest
16 Sep 03  |  Americas
IMF grants loan to Bolivia
03 Apr 03  |  Business
Bolivia shuffles government
20 Feb 03  |  Americas
Uneasy calm returns to Bolivia
14 Feb 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Bolivia
06 Sep 03  |  Country profiles


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