A loan of 150 million dollars that the Bank of America made to Bolivia via Argentina early in March made only a tiny dent in the country's foreign debt of 3.83 thousand million US dollars, which far outstrips the gross national product.
SV EXTERIOR PULL BACK TO GV Traffic in La Paz street.
SV PAN People queuing on footpath.
SV People getting into vans, utility trucks which drive off. (3 SHOTS)
GVs Closed banks. (2 SHOTS)
GV Large fuel tanks PAN TO tall stack above industrial building. (2 SHOTS)
SVs Vendors crouched on footpath outside closed factory gates. (3 SHOTS)
GV & SV PAN Lines of cars queuing for petrol. (2 SHOTS)
SV & GV Attendant filling car petrol tank, taking money, line of cars on petrol station forecourt. (4 SHOTS)
GV & SV Gangs engaged on road repair work. (3 SHOTS)
GV & SV Child shoeshiners at work. (2 SHOTS)
SV & GVs Crowded market showing food and other stalls. (3 SHOTS)
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: A loan of 150 million dollars that the Bank of America made to Bolivia via Argentina early in March made only a tiny dent in the country's foreign debt of 3.83 thousand million US dollars, which far outstrips the gross national product. The loan was made through Buenos Aires to help ease Bolivia's foreign exchange crisis without risking an increase in the Bank of America's exposure in Bolivia. The loan followed one thousand million dollars in loans that western governments made last year. Bolivia is one of the worst credit risks in Latin America and second only to Haiti as the poorest nation in the Americas. It has been wracked by strikes and social unrest since President Hernan Siles Zuazo last year brought in a tough austerity package that included sharp food prices. Rumours of another coup are sustained by reports that opposition leaders have been wooing military chiefs with a view to their taking power. Bolivia has had 189 coups and upheavals in its 154 years of existence. Diplomatic sources say however that the military are too divided politically to act, and would also think twice about taking over with so much economic and social disintegration in evidence. The military high command has said it would not bring troops into the streets to break strikes or to protect the leftist government from public unrest. Public transport has been hit in the capital, La Paz. The union to which the drivers belong said recently its members would continue their state of emergency until the government promised to provide imported vehicles for public transport systems. Meanwhile, townspeople have to queue to use a makeshift system of vans, small trucks and pickups. Thousands of peasants who lived in subsistence have migrated to cities where hundreds of businesses and at least half of the construction industry are paralysed. Unemployment is around 40 per cent and those in work go on strike at least one day a week demanding higher wages. Last January, the government raised salaries by 57 per cent, and also froze the prices o
f flour, sugar, rice, oil and milk. The move followed a seven-day hunger strike by some four thousand workers and union leaders. Many petrol pumps are empty but people still queue at petrol stations in the hope that supplies may arrive. With inflation running at some 40 per cent a month, there is a black market in petrol and basic foodstuffs that are supposedly under government control. For the first time since the mid-1950s, daily queues form to buy scanty supplies of bread and milk which are still distributed at controlled prices. Newspapers quote people as saying they are worse off now than they were under military rule, but still prefer to have civilian authorities running the country.