Truck drivers protest over fuel prices in Chile, Bolivia

Truck drivers continued Thursday to blockade roads in Chile and Bolivia, demanding that the respective governments ease taxes on fuel in an attempt to face rising fuel prices, the dpa reported.

In Chile, the truck drivers protest that started Tuesday continued to cause trouble for the supply of food, fuel and health sector products, causing millions of dollars in losses according to government and business officials.

Access to several cities were blocked in some areas, and mass transit systems partially joined the protest by some 60,000 freight vehicles.

The crisis paralysed the country's main ports and particularly affected northern and southern regions.

The right-wing opposition said it will block a government- sponsored bill to establish a 1-billion-dollar fuel subsidy, causing the protest to become tougher.

Drivers are demanding the subsidy, and also the elimination of road tolls and the country's taxes on fuel.

Chile imports almost all of the fuel it consumes.

Energy Minister Marcelo Tokman called upon protestors "not to put at risk the supply" of basic products.

"It is one thing to make the decision to go on strike and not transport anything, and another to prevent those who do want to work from doing so," Tokman complained.

Several hospitals reported trouble in securing a supply of oxygen.

In neighbouring Bolivia, truck drivers were continuing with a similar protest, which also started Tuesday. They wreaked havoc on traffic in eastern, western and southern parts of the Andean country and vowed to keep the protest going indefinitely.

Drivers demanded that the government change taxes on the sector and modify customs regulations, and also that the authorities secure better upkeep of the country's roads. Bolivian President Evo Morales has refused to do as protestors want.

Beyond the drivers' protest, the construction sector staged an unprecedented demonstration Thursday, taking heavy machinery into the eastern Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in demand for new prices in the face of rising costs.

In Argentina - which has borders with both Chile and Bolivia - truck drivers were also protesting Thursday, although their demands were not aimed at fuel prices or government policy. Rather, they were complaining that a farmers' protest that has been ongoing since March has severely reduced their workload.

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