Bolivia's President Lidia Gueiler has begun negotiations with trade union chiefs to establish a minimum wage for workers.
LV Teachers demonstrating in streets of La Paz carrying placards
SV Demonstrator handing out leaflets
SV Onlookers jeering demonstrators
LV Marchers parade through street
SV Demonstrators with armbands chanting and raising fists
SCU Plaque on wall reading Casa Social del Maestro PAN TO Demonstrators rallying outside with placards (3 shots)
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Background: Bolivia's President Lidia Gueiler has begun negotiations with trade union chiefs to establish a minimum wage for workers. This follows a series of nationwide strikes against the economic austerity measures which have threatened her three month old government. After meeting leaders of the Central Unionist Organisation (C.O.B.) President Gueiler declared on Thursday (28 February) that she would die in defence of democracy. Her supporters fear continuing unrest will bring down the first Bolivian civilian government for almost a decade, and could well test that declaration.
SYNOPSIS: The government in La Paz has faced fierce opposition to its tough economic measures announced last December (1979). More than one thousand teachers marched through the streets of the capital on Wednesday (27 February) demanding higher salaries. They called for a threefold increase in their average monthly wage of 2,500 pesos (100 U.S. Dollars).
The teachers action follows a series of strikes by bankers, cooks, shop workers, drivers, public employees and agricultural workers, since President Gueiler took office, 13 weeks ago.
The marchers frequently were booed and insulted by government supporters, mindful that Mrs Gueiler came to power only after an unsuccessful military coup last November (1979). She said then that Bolivia was almost bankrupt, immediately devalued the peso by nearly twenty percent, and froze food prices fuel and transport costs more than doubled, violent protests followed.
Peasants blockaded roads around the capital for ten days, demanding more for their produce. Workers stoned government buildings and looted shops, while the trade unions staged a series of selective and general strikes.
The latest action by the teachers came as President Gueiler met a delegation from C.O.B. to analyse pay and conditions for workers. She agreed to examine proposals for a minimum wage linked to the rising cost of living. Earlier this year, Mrs Gueiler announced a general election for next June in an attempt to reduce political unrest.