The government of Bolivia is holding a meeting this Saturday with the chief trade union federation in the South American country, the Bolivian Workers' Center or COB, in order to find a solution to the 72-hour general strike held this week by the organization to protest the closure of the textile factory, Enatex.
Talks are being held by five union leaders and Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, who has been promoting dialogue since last May when violent protest emerged after the government announced Enatex will be closed.
Protesters used explosives during a rally on May 18 and one of the explosions killed a protester and injured a photojournalist. Riot police intervened and clashes turned violent.
Enatex was rescued by the government of President Evo Morales in 2013, when the then private-owned-company declared bankruptcy after the industry suffered one of its worst crisis following the decision of former U.S. President George W. Bush to suspend trade agreements with Bolivia under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, or ATPDEA.
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The Bush administration decided to punish Bolivia, arguing the South American country had failed to cooperate in the fight against drug trafficking. This is because President Morales, a former coca grower himself and union leader, has always defended and promoted coca farmers along with the traditional use of the coca leaf in Andean culture.
A government official said Saturday that the COB should opt for dialogue in order to find solutions for all workers and abandon the idea of trying to turn one particular topic—like Enatex—into a national conflict.
The COB says at least 850 workers will be affected by the closure. However, the government said the company is no longer profitable and has assured staff that its transformation will inject more money into the industry, which like many other small Bolivian industries has suffered since the Bush administration suspended trade agreements with the small Andean country — one of the poorest in South America.