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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 October 2006, 02:07 GMT 03:07 UK
Transport strike cripples Uruguay
By Daniel Schweimler
South America correspondent, BBC News

Striking truck and taxi drivers park their vehicles before the parliament in Montevideo

Lorry and taxi drivers striking in protest at rise in the price of diesel have brought Uruguay to a standstill.

The indefinite stoppage is the biggest test the left-of-centre government of President Tabare Vasquez has faced since it came to office last year.

About 20,000 lorry drivers and some 5,000 taxi drivers in the small South American country have stopped work.

Uruguay's government has increased the price of diesel, imposing a tax to pay for a subsidy on bus fares.

But the measure, say the strikers, will substantially add to their operating costs.

The lorry drivers have said they will guarantee the delivery of essential items such as milk but not meat and other agricultural products.

Residents in the capital, Montevideo, have already reported a shortage of some fruits and vegetables.

Transport Minister Victor Rossi called the strike a savage measure, especially as he said they had reached agreement with the workers over economic differences.

The motive, added Mr Rossi, must therefore be political.

Uruguay provides much of its own food but almost everything else in this nation of just over three million people is imported from elsewhere in South America and this strike threatens to bite hard and quickly.




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