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

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.