CARACAS, Venezuela, Sept. 23 (UPI) — Venezuela’s capital of Caracas was partly paralyzed for eight hours on Wednesday by bus drivers who blocked streets to protest the country’s economic crisis under former bus driver President Nicolas Maduro.
A spokesman for the bus drivers said hundreds of drivers demand more pay and protection from violent crime. The drivers need funds to maintain their buses, while there is a scarcity of spare parts nationwide, the spokesman added, BBC News reports.
Unions are calling on Venezuela’s Ministry of Transport to raise the bus fare but Transport Minister Ricardo Molina has yet to meet union leaders, citing scheduling conflicts. Many drivers have already increased bus fares without governmental consent.
Venezuela is going through an economic crisis, which was exacerbated by a fall in oil prices, that has led to a shortage of basic goods — including food and medicine. In the Miranda state, where Caracas is located, a recent study found 17 percent of people feed themselves by going through garbage.
Maduro was a bus driver before becoming a trade union leader. He was later elected to Venezuela’s National Assembly and eventually rose to become late former President Hugo Chavez‘s vice president.