Violence in La Paz as Public Confronts Striking Bus Drivers

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8 May 2012. Public transportation drivers blocked streets and avenues throughout La Paz on Monday and Tuesday in an announced 48-hour strike, making it impossible to drive anywhere in the city. The public was forced to walk to work, some for several miles. On 21st street of the city's Zona Sur (southern zone) neighbors confronted protesters and at least 8 people were injured.

Drivers are protesting against a new municipal law designed to reorganize the urban transportation system. Drivers blocked dozens of streets with buses and reacted violently in many cases when the public attempted to drive their own cars and motorcycles, in some cases breaking the windshields and slashing the tires of people who attempted to drive their own cars. René Vargas, president of the Driver's Association of La Paz, admitted these excesses had taken place yesterday and apologized to the public on behalf of his union.

Members of the public were harmed by drivers in Miraflores (Plaza Triangular, Avenida Busch), Villa Fátima (Plaza Villarroel, Plaza del Maestro), Avenida Zavaleta, Villa El Carmen, Achachicala, Terminal, Ciudadela Ferroviaria, Calle 21 de Calacoto, Avenida Mariscal Santa Cruz, Plan Autopista y Pasankeri when they protested against the drivers' blockade.

In Pasankeri, neighbors attempted to unblock Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz Avenue, resulting in a violent confrontation with drivers and eight injured, among them five members of the public, two police officers and a cameraman when drivers attacked them with rocks. Neighbors are now demanding the busline be expelled from their neighborhood.

At Avenida Zavaleta, drivers stopped an ambulance that was attempting to reach the Zona Sur and did not allow any other cars through. However, minutes later government vehicles were allowed to pass. The public considers this an excess as it puts the lives of patients needing medical care, in danger.

In Plan Autopista, along the highway to the El Alto airport, drives slashed tires and broke the windshields of vehicles attempting to reach the airport.

Drivers also attacked the public in various other points of the city. There are numerous accounts by the public that some of the drivers were under the influence of alcohol.

In Calacoto a group of young people (summoned via Twitter and Facebook) took to the streets to face the strikers and demand they allow private cars to circulate. This resulted in a street fight involving about 200 people in which bottles and rocks were thrown.

Source: Date: 8 May 2012.
This is a translated summary. Read more in Spanish here.

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