Today in Latin America
Top Story — Bus drivers and other transport workers in Bolivia began an indefinite strike Monday in protest against an increase of more than 70 percent in the price of fuel.
The drivers are striking due to a 73 percent increase in gasoline prices and an 83 percent increase in the cost of diesel fuel. The Bolivian government said it raised prices to encourage more fuel production in Bolivia and to cutdown on the smuggling of cheap, subsidized fuel across Bolivian borders to other countries.
“We cannot have low prices here and high prices outside [Bolivia], because then all our gasoline and diesel flow out like rivers. We have tried to protect ourselves from smuggling. We have mobilized the armed forces. We have done everything, but it’s impossible,” said Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera, according to The Financial Times. “Our model of development needs to be protected. We will continue to grow and invest, but we cannot continue bleeding.”
Gas prices have been frozen for six years and the government says it can no longer afford to subsidize them.
The strike paralyzed transportation into Bolivia’s major urban areas and military transport vehicles were used to shuttle people to work.
“This won’t just affect the transport sector, this will affect everyone because all prices will rise,” said Franklin Durán, a spokesman for Bolivia’s bus drivers’ confederation, according to The BBC.
Vice President García Linera is in charge of the government while President Evo Morales is on a visit to Venezuela.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- Mexican police found two decapitated bodies in front of a bar in Acapulco, where 11 men were reportedly abducted earlier this month.
- Coaches for the football teams of Notre Dame and Miami University (Fl.) have forbid their players to cross the border into Ciudad Juárez, Mexico as they prepare for Friday’s Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX.
- The White House said Sunday that the military prison at Guantánamo Naval Base in Cuba will not be closed in the near future.
- At least 2,700 have died of cholera in Haiti since the outbreak of the disease, the Haitian government said Monday.
- In the Dominican Republic, 23 new cases of cholera have been reported, bringing the total to over 100 cases.
- The strike at the University of Puerto Rico continues, despite a recess until Jan. 10.
- French telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent agreed to pay more than $137 million to settle charges it bribed foreign government officials in Costa Rica, Honduras, Malaysia and Taiwan in exchange for telecommunications contracts.
- A luxury resort hotel on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast has been closed after more than 200 tourists were sickened in repeated outbreaks of stomach flu, authorities said.
- The Panamanian government said a U.S. diplomatic cable about President Ricardo Martinelli’s demanding help in wiretapping political opponents arose from a “mistaken interpretation.”
- Colombia’s main stock market said Monday it will extend its trading sessions by three hours in the new year to coincide with New York’s closing bell.
- Venezuela has detained 12,376 people on drug-related charges this year, about 40 percent more than in 2009, the authorities said Monday.
- A top diplomat says Washington has apologized to Peru for leaked diplomatic cables about the country.
- Environmentalists say construction of five hydroelectric dams in Peru as part of an energy agreement with Brazil will damage the environment.
- Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said that U.S. policies toward Latin America have changed little since President Obama took office.
- U.S. mountain climber John Watcher died Monday while descending Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas, during a powerful snowstorm.
- Scientists from Chile and other countries plan to build a base in the Atacama desert in an attempt to simulate a space colony.
Image: Alistair Howard @ Flickr.