ROBERTO FLORES PROUDLY WEARS HIS gray Notre Dame University sweatshirt, but he's no fan of the Fightin' Irish. 'Used clothing is cheap:' says the 15-year-old Bolivian boy who shines shoes on the streets of La Paz. The sweatshirt cost him $1.20.
In Bolivia, one of the region's poorest countries, government officials aren't so enthusiastic about Flores' choice of fashion. They have passed a new law to regulate the business because they say used clothing threatens people's health and hurts the nation's textile industry.
Herberto Sanchez, president of a local used clothing sellers association, says the government is wrong. "We've been wearing the clothing for 13 years and we've never gotten sick:' he says.
True, say Bolivian officials, who acknowledge there have been no known cases of illness attributed to used clothing. But they still intend to enforce the new law because of pressure from the nation's textile manufacturers.
National Association of Textile Industries President Javier Asbun says the industry is working at about a quarter of its capacity and that used clothing imports have been growing at a...