BOLIVIA. Sucre: Outside the office of Mayor Rosario Lopez in 25 de Mayo Square, a crowd of aggrieved caseros gathered this week to ask for justice.
Among the worst hit by the economic fallout of COVID-19 have been the nation’s farmers and open market vendors. Some of these sellers drive for an hour every day into the city to set up market stalls, in hopes of clearing a diminutive profit as the country grapples with economic retraction.
The impetus behind the demonstration is accusations of blackmail and stealing from these long-suffering, essential workers.
Vendors are asking for indemnity
After congregating en masse in front of Mayor Lopez’s office, the market sellers blocked the roads around the city’s central market in a further expression of outrage.
Generally, vendors use private security guards provided by the mayor to protect their market stalls from thieves. These same security officials have reportedly been demanding free product under the threat of closing a vendor’s stall, which has left considerable acerbity in its wake.
This deplorable behavior has continued for months and reached a tipping point on Monday 16 Nov. when furious sellers arrived on the mayor’s doorstep in droves.
Informal street vendors are a growing industry
Due to the spike in unemployment brought on by the pandemic lockdowns, throngs of unregulated vendors have flooded the streets in cities throughout the country. This has created limitless opportunities for crime. There are numerous reports of sellers who failed to bribe corrupt security guards having their goods confiscated and held for ransom.
The informal resale of goods is a common practice in Bolivia, especially in areas that have a high demand for hard to attain items, like electronics or seasonal produce. Outside the formal vendor’s union, these undocumented sellers have a difficult time proving their case and attaining compensation for theft and other criminal behavior.