Bolivian army to sell bread to prevent shortages

January 1st, 2011 - 1:01 pm ICT by IANS  

La Paz, Jan 1 (IANS/EFE) Bolivian President Evo Morales has ordered the armed forces to sell bread in the western highland cities of El Alto and La Paz to prevent prices from soaring amid protests over an end to fuel subsidies.Morales issued a decree last weekend ending subsidies for gasoline, diesel and other fuels. The executive order sent the prices of those liquid fuels soaring by between 57 percent and 82 percent and also prompted an increase in bus fares and higher food prices.

The army has set up 12 points of sale in La Paz and El Alto to sell bread at 0.40 bolivianos ($0.05) per roll. They will be in operation until the bakers’ union ends a strike called to protest higher prices stemming from the decision to end the subsidies.

“We’ve made bread at our units, where we have two industrial ovens that make 10,000 bread rolls per day. To reach the largest number of people, 10 bread rolls per person are being distributed,” a military spokesman told local media.

Morales Thursday accused the bakers of “capitalizing” on the situation to double the price of bread after their union announced a 48-hour strike to protest the fuel price hike.

Thousands of people in several cities took part in demonstrations Thursday against the decree ending the fuel subsidies, with the protests spilling over into acts of vandalism and riot police resorting to tear gas to break them up.

The next large-scale rallies are scheduled for Monday, when miners and workers affiliated with Bolivia’s biggest labor federation, the COB, are due to march in La Paz to demand Morales revoke the decree removing the subsidies.

Morales, a socialist and Aymara Indian whose electoral base is concentrated in Bolivia’s heavily indigenous western highlands, Wednesday announced a 20 percent increase in the minimum wage for police, health workers, the military and other public-sector employees to help offset the effect of the higher fuel prices.

The government said it ended the subsidies in response to rampant smuggling of cheap Bolivian gasoline and diesel into neighbouring countries where prices are higher.

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