Cost of a bus trip stirs conflict
The bus operators of El Salvador are getting squeezed by high fuel prices. The law does not allow them to raise fares to cover those increased fuel costs. The government has dragged its feet on increasing the subsidy to drivers which allows them to cover their costs.
So bus operators on some routes have begun illegally charging more than the set fare. They are demanding as much as 35 cents on routes supposedly capped at 25 cents.
The Center for the Defense of the Consumer has denounced the illegal price increases and critiqued the government for not acting against the bus operators. It has proposed that bus operators who charge the increased fare should lose their concession to operate. The CDC calculates that fares of 35 cents would consume as much as 8-18% of a family's budget if two members needed to ride buses to get to minimum wage jobs.
The rise in bus fares has led to protest. Young men in masks have been taking to the streets alongside the University of El Salvador and burning things. They torched two buses on one day and burned tires on other days. The images of the protests have echoes in the recent past. It was a little less than two years ago, when, in this same location, protests against rising bus fares turned violent and two policemen were killed. That event led to the passage of an aniti-terrorism law in El Salvador and attempts by ARENA to blame the violence on elements in the FMLN.
Photos from Ethan James.