President Salvador Allende of Chile, who swore in a new military-based cabinet on Thursday (August 9) in an effort to halt crippling strikes plaguing the economy, issued a tough back-to-work ultimatum on Saturday (August 11) to an estimated 45,000 striking lorry owners.
President Salvador Allende of Chile, who swore in a new military-based cabinet on Thursday (August 9) in an effort to halt crippling strikes plaguing the economy, issued a tough back-to-work ultimatum on Saturday (August 11) to an estimated 45,000 striking lorry owners. The ultimatum was to expire on Sunday (August 12) midnight - after which the Government would use all 'legal powers at its disposal' to get the lorries working again, said President Allende.
Meanwhile, more than 500 armed police backed by three tanks fired tear gas to disperse striking lorry-owners to seize their vehicles in another violent incident in Santiago on Saturday. They failed after vehicles became bogged down in heavy mud. Since the strike began, 17 days earlier stocks of food, petrol and kerosene have begun to run critically low. Temperatures plummeted to near zero in many areas of the country to create a crisis situation as thousands of kerosene-heated homes and offices were left without heat. The lorry-owners have been demanding more spare parts for their vehicles; the right to charge higher tariffs; and the sacking of Government Under-Secretary for Transport Jaime Faivovitch who, they claim, had acted illegally during earlier lorry-requisition operations. Senor Faivovitch, who was not affected in Thursday's Government re-shuffle, directed Saturday's abortive operation to seize lorries.
In the cabinet shuffle Army commander General Carlos Prats was appointed Defence Minster; Air Force commander General Cesar Ruiz was given the Public Works portfolio; Navy Chief Admiral Raul Montero was made Treasure Minister; and Police Chief Jose Maria Sepulveda Galindo was appointed Lands Ministers. A similar strike ended last October, three days after President Allende brought in the military for their first brief spell of power with the 33-month-old left-wing coalition government.
Meanwhile, thousands of pro-Government workers staged a rally in support of the re-shuffle, but shop-keepers closed their premises in protest.
SYNOPSIS: Chile, in the grip of a crippling lorry drivers' strike, experienced yet another government re-shuffle on Thursday. President Salvador Allende had decided to bring the three armed forces commanders and the police chief into his cabinet in a determined bid to smash the strike.
This is the eighth new cabinet tried out in Chile since President Allende came to power as the western world's first freely-elected Marxist President thirty-three months ago. He himself described the introduction of military leaders into the cabinet as a last ditch attempt to avert civil war, for the current transport strike has been accompanied by a wave of political violence.
Navy chief Admiral Raul Montaro Cornejo becomes Treasury Minister.....
Army commander General Carlos Parts is the new Defence Minister....
And Airforce Commander General Cesar Ruiz is appointed to the Public Works portfolio. President Allends has claimed the military presence won't impede his legal socialist revolution--just help to consolidate it.
Police Chief Jose Maria Sepulveda Galindo is appointed Land Minister in the new Cabinet. In Parliament, Dr. Allende's powerful opponents, the Christian Democrats, have reacted favourably to the new government.
But outside Parliament, some reactions were less favourable. In Santiago, many shops closed down on the same day as a mark of disapproval, adding to the current list of stoppages. In the meantime, the new government had made a shot of strength by ordering the forty-five thousand striking lorry drivers back to work by a Sunday deadline.
Despite the shop keepers' stoppage, thousands of Allende supporters converged on Santiago to demonstrate in favour of the new military-based government. An estimated half-million of them took the streets. And the powerful Trade Unions Confederation ironically added to the strike situation by declaring a half-day general strike in support of the government. Meantime, because of the transport stoppage, stocks of essential commodities, including food and fuel, were running critically low.