Friday, November 16, 2012

Protests flare in Mozambique over bus fare hikes

MAPUTO (Reuters) - Protesters burned tires and barricaded roads in Mozambique's capital on Thursday in retaliation to a government plan to hike bus fares in one of the world's poorest countries.

Police encircled Maputo's poorest suburbs, where demonstrating commuters blocked intersections with burning tires.

All bus services were cancelled. It was not immediately clear if there had been any arrest or injuries.

Maputo's municipal assembly voted last week to raise bus fares by 40 percent to $0.24, an amount that many in the impoverished former Portuguese colony cannot afford.

"This hurts," said Celestino Julio Mangate, a fisherman and commuter. "Sometimes, it is difficult for our kids to go to school. It is difficult for fathers to go to work. It is difficult for mothers to go to the market."

The raise is the first since 2008, when violent riots broke out in response to a 50 percent fare hike.

The government has since subsidized fares to keep them artificially low, but it says the hike will allow Mozambique's failing transportation system to reduce its deficit.

At least 13 people died and hundreds more were injured in 2010 in several days of violent protests in and around Maputo over rising food prices.

(Reporting by Marina Lopes and William Mapote; Editing by David Dolan)


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