Bolivia Fuel Hike Sets Off Massive Protests

Bolivia lapsed into nationwide pandemonium Thursday as protests against an 83 percent rise in fuel prices shut down public transport.

President Evo Morales’ government decreed the gas cost hikes Sunday, announcing it could no longer afford to subsidize the previous prices, which had been frozen for six years, AP reports.

The response in the Andean country was violent unrest as thousands of demonstrators marched and bus drivers maintained the four-day strike that has left major cities largely immobile.

Morales attempted to placate citizens Wednesday by announcing a 20-percent minimum salary increase, but unions and civic groups said the demonstrations would go on nevertheless.

The gasoline subsidies that kept prices low for years cost the government about $380 million per year, AFP reports.

Morales’ administration says the hikes are necessary partly because much of the subsidized gas was being smuggled across borders to neighboring countries.

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