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Date: Mon, 18 Oct 1999 22:31:14 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: (en) General Strike Called In Dominican Republic
From: DAMN <damn@tao.ca>
Article: 79799
Message-ID: <bulk.28367.19991019091543@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

General Strike Called In Dominican Republic

from A-Infos News Serice, 18 October 1999

Army troops patrolled streets, stores closed, public transport ground to a halt and more than 1,000 people were under arrest Tuesday as Dominican labor unions staged a nationwide general strike to protest a 20% increase in fuel prices and an increase in the exchange rate commission that will make imports more expensive.

Apolinar Toribio, a teacher and leader of the Collective of Popular organizations, one of the groups that called the strike, was dragged from his house before dawn and shot twice at close range, according to local authorities investigating the case.

In Santo Domingo, the capital, SWAT police and soldiers in jeeps patrolled streets lined with boarded-up shops. Most workers and students stayed home to avoid trouble, though civil servants were ordered to report to work.

Dozens of labor and activist groups called the indefinite general strike to protest gas price hikes of between 15 percent and 25 percent imposed by President Leonel Fernandez's government on Friday.

Fernandez said the increases were needed to help pay the Caribbean country's $4 billion foreign debt, but they struck a blow to Dominicans whose average income is only $5,000 a year.

As with previous strikes, police and army troops conducted sweeps throughout the nation, arresting hundreds of street activists to prevent demonstrations and violence. The Popular Organizations Collective,-- Coordinadora de Organizaciones Populares, Choferiles y Sindicales--the umbrella labor group which called the strike, and other community groups said that more than 1,000 people had been jailed.

Police refused to say how many were in custody.

The leftist opposition Dominican Revolutionary Party also protested the arrests, saying several of its officials in the countryside had been detained.

"What we're trying to prevent is that the strike is accompanied by violence, which usually occurs. That's the reason for the increased patrols and detentions of some popular and labor leaders," said Interior Secretary Norge Botello.

The government estimates that each day the strike lasts will cost the economy 663 million pesos ($42 million) in lost sales and earnings.

Officials deployed some 600 government-owned buses to try to make up for the absence of private buses and transport vans. Most businesses were closed.

Under the price hikes, regular-grade gasoline rose from 22 pesos ($1.46) to 27.90 pesos ($1.75) per gallon. Premium gasoline rose from 27.9 pesos ($1.75) to 32.50 pesos ($2.05) per gallon.

The A-Infos News Service

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