[R-G] Colombia: Workers, farmers strike in protest of Uribe
bstoller at utopia2000.org
Mon Sep 16 13:00:45 MDT 2002
AFP (with additional material by Reuters). 16 September 2002. Strike
against Colombian president's wage and job cuts.
BOGOTA -- Striking Colombian state workers disrupted air traffic in the
capital and in the country's major southern city on Monday, said
transportation minister Andres Uriel Gallego.
The workers were protesting President Alvaro Uribe's belt-tightening
policies that threaten thousands of layoffs.
"There are restrictions on air traffic in the Cali airport and traffic
at El Dorado airport in Bogota is being partially restored," said Gallego.
Authorities reported that in its initial hours, the strike had caused no
public disturbances. The strike began at midnight (05H00 GMT).
"Things are going really well. We have the health sector paralyzed, the
oil sector stopped as well as the courts and state auditing offices,"
said Julio Roberto Gomez, general secretary of one of Colombia's largest
union umbrella organizations, the Confederation of Democratic Colombian
Rural workers joined the 24-hour general strike to protest the rightist
social and economic policies of Uribe.
Since taking office on August 7, Uribe has pledged to cut government
salaries by 25-75 percent in addition to laying off some 30,000 people.
Union leaders said protestors planned to gather in the capital city's
main square, close to the presidential offices and Congress.
Street protests also were scheduled to take place in a number of other
Colombian cities, they said.
The government imposed tight security in case leftist rebels infiltrated
the protest by the 800,000 workers while unions said the government's
actions were intended to discourage protest.
The United Nations Human Rights Office on Saturday called on the
authorities to respect the right to stage demonstrations.
Colombian unions are less powerful than those in many Latin American
countries, partly because far-right paramilitary gangs target their
leaders, whom they often accuse of being guerrilla sympathizers.
A record 201 killings or disappearances of union activists occurred in
Colombia in 2001, says the Brussels-based International Confederation of
Free Trade Unions.
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