Bolivia 21/02/11

Morales announces meeting with COB following strikes, while negotiations over coastal access continue with Chile.

After a week of protests led by the Central Obrera Boliviana (Bolivian Workers’ Union – COB) President Morales announced on Saturday that a meeting with the COB had been arranged for 10am Monday morning.

A pre-announced 24-hour strike, organised by the COB, paralysed seven of the country’s nine departmental capitals this week, as the social unrest that has plagued the country since the beginning of the year continued. The protests have been sparked by the price rises of basic commodities such as sugar, bread and petrol.

Despite affirming that the government was open to negotiation and free discussion, the president reiterated that the protestors’ demand for an 8,500 bolivianos standard salary was ‘irrational’.

Chile-Bolivia relations also dominated the news this week as the diplomatic to-and-fro over Bolivian coastal access continued. The Chilean chancellor, Alfredo Moreno, told the Santiago daily, El Mercurio, that the relationship was ‘complex and difficult’, following a visit to La Paz to meet with his Bolivian counterpart David Choquehuanca. However, constructive progress had been made, Moreno stressed.

Morales declared that he remains hopeful that a formal agreement between the two countries can be drawn up before 23 March, when Bolivia traditionally commemorates the loss of its pacific seaboard.

These confident statements have caused some political backlash in Chile, however. The Chilean senator and president of la Unión Demócrata Independiente (Independent Democrat Union – UDI), Hernán Larraín, expressed resentment over Morales’ comments, telling his country’s press, ‘Chile does not owe Bolivia anything’.