World

500 Bolivian soldiers in unprecedented strike over dismissals, dead end careers

  • Members of the Air Force shout slogans as they protest in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. Hundreds of low ranking soldiers from Bolivia's Armed Forces marched against the military high command's dismissal of four of its leaders who defended their call for more career opportunities. Soldiers who study three years to be sergeants and then warrant officers want the opportunity to rise in rank, according to Felix Jhonny Gil, president of the National Association of Warrant Officers and Sergeants. The soldiers' wives started a hunger strike in solidarity. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

    Members of the Air Force shout slogans as they protest in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. Hundreds of low ranking soldiers from Bolivia's Armed Forces marched against the military high command's dismissal of four of its leaders who defended their call for more career opportunities. Soldiers who study three years to be sergeants and then warrant officers want the opportunity to rise in rank, according to Felix Jhonny Gil, president of the National Association of Warrant Officers and Sergeants. The soldiers' wives started a hunger strike in solidarity. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)  (The Associated Press)

  • Army soldiers shout slogans as they protest in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. Hundreds of low ranking soldiers from Bolivia's Armed Forces marched against the military high command's dismissal of four of its leaders who defended their call for more career opportunities. Soldiers who study three years to be sergeants and then warrant officers want to be given the opportunity to rise in rank, according to Felix Jhonny Gil, president of the National Association of Warrant Officers and Sergeants. The soldiers' wives started a hunger strike in solidarity. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

    Army soldiers shout slogans as they protest in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. Hundreds of low ranking soldiers from Bolivia's Armed Forces marched against the military high command's dismissal of four of its leaders who defended their call for more career opportunities. Soldiers who study three years to be sergeants and then warrant officers want to be given the opportunity to rise in rank, according to Felix Jhonny Gil, president of the National Association of Warrant Officers and Sergeants. The soldiers' wives started a hunger strike in solidarity. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)  (The Associated Press)

  • An older member of the Air Force launches a fire cracker during a protest in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. Hundreds of low ranking soldiers from Bolivia's Armed Forces marched against the military high command's dismissal of four of its leaders who defended their call for more career opportunities. Soldiers who study three years to be sergeants and then warrant officers want to be given the opportunity to rise in rank, according to Felix Jhonny Gil, president of the National Association of Warrant Officers and Sergeants. The soldiers' wives started a hunger strike in solidarity. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

    An older member of the Air Force launches a fire cracker during a protest in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. Hundreds of low ranking soldiers from Bolivia's Armed Forces marched against the military high command's dismissal of four of its leaders who defended their call for more career opportunities. Soldiers who study three years to be sergeants and then warrant officers want to be given the opportunity to rise in rank, according to Felix Jhonny Gil, president of the National Association of Warrant Officers and Sergeants. The soldiers' wives started a hunger strike in solidarity. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)  (The Associated Press)

About 500 Bolivian soldiers have gone on strike to demand they be given the option of rising to the rank of officer and to protest the dismissal of four of their leaders.

Such a strike is unprecedented and Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra says it is illegal.

The enlisted men are demanding reform so the 11,000 non-commissioned officers in Bolivia's military may study to become career officers.

They jogged through the streets of La Paz on Tuesday to the applause of passers-by and did not return to their barracks.

The four protest leaders were fired on Monday.

The striking soldiers are also demanding medical benefits on part with officers. Bolivia's military has some 40,000 members.