Bolivia uproar over perks for presidential family

The wives and children of Bolivia's president and vice president have received per diems that are more than twice the minimum monthly wage in the impoverished country, drawing fierce criticism Wednesday.

The government approved the per diems on March 13 but the decree was only recently revealed by the newspaper Pagina Siete.

The perk applies when the family members are traveling with the president or vice president on official trips. They are also granted diplomatic passports.

President Evo Morales, a populist who took power in 2006 as the country's first indigenous leader, has two children and is separated from his wife. Vice President Alvaro Garcia recently married a TV anchorwoman.

The minimum monthly wage in Bolivia -- South America's poorest country -- is $143. The new daily per diem for the leaders' family members ranges from $283-339.

Opposition lawmaker Adrian Oliva on Wednesday likened the spending to a unbridled raid on government coffers.

"It is disgraceful that President Morales is forgetting his roots," Oliva said. Morales is an Aymara Indian, one of the communities that make up the impoverished majority in Bolivia.

Ruling socialist party lawmaker Galo Bonifaz said the criticism "has racist overtones against the president, who does a great job for the country."