Bolivian military take control of airports to break strike

Bolivian military and police forces have taken control of four main airports, aiming to break an airline workers' strike in major cities.

Submitted by libcom on April 3, 2006

Employees from the country's main airline, Lloyd Aereo Boliviano (LAB), are demanding its nationalisation.

But President Evo Morales has ruled out nationalisation, saying the partially private company is seriously corrupt.

The government said it took control of airports in an effort to avoid accidents and ensure passenger safety.

The Bolivian state already holds a 48% stake in the LAB.

Mr Morales ordered forces in to secure airports in the main city of La Paz, as well as Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.

Workers had gone on strike demanding the removal of the company's President Ernesto Asbun.

'Delicate balance'

Mr Morales, who was elected president on a socialist platform, criticised the striking workers but reserved most of his criticism for Mr Asbun, who he accused of making the situation worse.

Many of LAB's more than 2,000 workers accuse Mr Asbun of trying to bring the airline into bankruptcy as a prelude to forming a new company.

The president has sent two government ministers to negotiate with the workers and the company and flights have returned to normal.

He said the protests have put passengers at risk and could cause some airports to lose their classification as international airports.

But it is a delicate situation, with no long-term solution in sight, says the BBC's South America correspondent Daniel Schweimler.

Earlier this year, the government intervened to end a strike over wages and pensions.

However, that intervention was declared illegal by Bolivia's Constitutional Court, and the Mr Asbun regained control of the company.