A strike by Colombia's main labour unions erupted into violence on Wednesday night (14 September) in the shanty towns of south Bogota leaving seven people dead and 29 injured in clashes with security forces.
A strike by Colombia's main labour unions erupted into violence on Wednesday night (14 September) in the shanty towns of south Bogota leaving seven people dead and 29 injured in clashes with security forces. The violence came as the government of President Alfonso Lopez Michelsen clamped a dusk to dawn curfew on the capital, paralysed by transport stoppages and street skirmishes.
SYNOPSIS: The 24-hour general strike was condemned by the government as politically motivated. But President Lopez Michelsen said he was quite prepared to study the labour situation with union leaders who called the strike to back demands for 30 per cent wage increases.
Heavy army patrols were on the streets of major cities throughout the duration of the strike and there were several clashes involving security forces and strikers.
Nails and other sharp objects were scattered on the streets, damaging the tyres of buses and private cars, seriously disrupting traffic and preventing thousands of non-strikers from arriving at work on time.
Bogota and all major cities were put under strict military control to minimise disorders during the strike. The government, one of the few in South America democratically elected, had banned the stoppage under the 15-month old stage of siege. The siege, a milder form of martial law, was imposed to counter a spate of kidnappings and labour unrest in the middle of last year.
More than 30 vehicles, a majority of them buses, were destroyed by fire in suburban riots. Eight businesses had been ransacked and railways were sabotaged. Dozens of people were arrested. The dead and injured, all civilians, were hit when troops fired on them as they ransacked shops and stores.
President Lopez Michelsen appeared on television after the start of the curfew and exhibited nails and tacks used to sabotage vehicles. He said the curfew in Bogota would stay in force as long as the authorities considered it necessary.