By Daniel Ramos
Bolivia’s transport and retail unions launched an indefinite strike on Monday to protest a law against so-called “illicit profits” and terrorist financing that critics allege is a government ruse to seize private property.
Opposition civil and political groups joined the strike, accusing the socialist government of President Luis Arce of using laws and the justice system to centralize power and crack down on dissent.
“They want to investigate us as criminals to find out where we get our money and our merchandise,” said Francisco Figueroa, a top union leader involved in the strike.
“There is fear that they will take everything from us.”
The strike, while widespread, did not have the support of the powerful Central Obrera Boliviana (COB) union, which is more closely allied with the government.
Thousands of union members marched in the main cities of the landlocked South American country against the law, while drivers suspended public transport service. In the lowland city of Santa Cruz, protesters blockaded roads.
The country has been sharply divided since the abrupt resignation of former socialist leader Evo Morales in 2019 amid protests. His party, back in power with a new president, accuses the conservative opposition of leading a coup against him.
Over Sunday a fight had broken out between Bolivian lawmakers in Congress, with the opposition saying that ruling party was seeking to perform a “legislative coup”.
Bolivia’s interior minister Eduardo del Castillo downplayed the strike and told the state TV channel that in many parts of the country things were operating as normal.
“In almost eight departments of the national territory there is complete normality, free movement. In the department of Santa Cruz there are sporadic blockade points that have been made up more by stones than by people,” he said.