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Strikes in Bolivia sparked by austerity measures

Public transport remained at a standstill here Sunday, following the closing of shops and restaurants Saturday in a three-day general strike to protest government austerity measures.

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The stoppage, due to end tonight, was called by the Communist-led Workers Confederation in response to an economic package announced Thursday by the left-wing government of President Hernan Siles Zuazo. The government announced a 75 percent devaluation of the peso against the dollar and price increases for basic foodstuffs ranging from 110 to 460 percent.

La Paz newspapers quoted housewives Saturday as saying they would be less able to afford basic products such as bread, sugar, rice, oil and milk. In any case, most of these items were missing from market shelves, they said.

The government said the measures were necessary to stop rising inflation, which ran at 328 percent in 1983.

The International Monetary Fund had demanded tough measures as a condition for a loan to help repay Bolivia's $4.4 billion foreign debt.

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