/** labr.global: 218.0 **/
** Topic: Paraguay Workers Hold Gen Strike **
** Written 4:46 PM May 26, 1996 by labornews in cdp:labr.global **
From: Institute for Global Communications <firstname.lastname@example.org>
/* Written 11:31 AM May 24, 1996 by email@example.com in igc:misc.activism. */
/* ---------- "3,000 Workers Hold Two-Day General" ---------- */
Workers in Paraguay held a two-day general strike May 2-3. They demanded a 31 percent wage increase and condemned the Juan Carlos Wasmosy administration's policy of privatizing public companies and ending government social security guarantees. Organizers say 95 percent of the workforce joined the stoppage nationwide while the government claims only 30 percent participated.
Among the May 2 actions was a demonstration by 3,000 workers in downtown Asuncio'n, the capital. The workers burned a coffin marked "Wasmosy lies here."
The first day of the general strike was marked by large clashes between unionized workers and the police in Asuncio'n. The battles were sparked by the arrest of Alan Flores, president of the United Workers Trade Union (CUT); Eduardo Ojeda, head of the National Workers Federation (CNT); and other union leaders who cops accused of "disrupting public order." The strikers defended themselves with sticks and stones, as police unleashed their truncheons and fired guns to disperse the workers.
In response to the trade unionists' arrests, workers at the public utility and local telephone companies threatened to suspend public services. The union officials were released on May 3.
Police Superintendent General Mario Sapriza admitted there were "excesses typical of this type of event," but justified the repression, arguing that the police were incited to react. When asked by reporters why the cops fired on the strikers, Sapriza said, "You will not believe me, but the police used their weapons in a way that was impossible to injure anyone." Some 130 people were wounded during the strike, according to the First Aid Hospital.
As part of the general strike, 95 percent of teachers walked out, 64 companies announced an endorsement of the strike, and 40 percent of the Antelco (National Telecommunications Administration) observed the strike nationwide. More than 80 percent of the shops in and around the center of the city remained closed, and classes at state schools were suspended both days.
On the second day of the strike a rally was held in which peasants participated for the first time. Seven thousand rallied in Asuncio'n May 3 at a rally at Democracy Square to wind up the action.
In other developments, Wasmosy announced May 7 the removal of several generals loyal to former Army Commander Gen. Lino Cesar Oviedo, who had failed in a coup attempt the previous month.