June 8, 1996 in Nation/World

Turmoil Escalates As Thousands Strike

Compiled From Wire Services

Hundreds of taxi drivers defied a police ban and rallied Friday in central Sofia, while hundreds of thousands across Bulgaria joined a one-hour strike demanding the Socialist government step down.

The turmoil has been triggered by Premier Zhan Videnov’s austerity measures intended to counter Bulgaria’s worst economic crisis since the fall of Communism in 1989. Prices for some goods have more than doubled.

The Socialists, made up of former Communists, plan a party meeting today to discuss a government shakeup ahead of a no-confidence vote in Parliament expected next week.

Nationwide, about 708,000 employees from 803 companies joined a one-hour warning strike called by the 1.5 million-member Confederation of Independent Unions, said Snezhana Lyubenova, a union spokeswoman.

In recent days, the government has proposed that Parliament raise the value-added tax from 18 percent to 22 percent. Price hikes have added to grain shortages, prompting some town authorities to ration bread.

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