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Strike that led to violence is called off for 40 days

July 4, 1997

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) _ A four-day strike that led to sporadic violence and brought most business to a standstill was suspended for 40 days to give the government a chance to respond to strikers’ demands.

The strike, which began Tuesday in the northeastern part of this Caribbean country to protest poor water and electric service, was called off at 6 a.m. Friday.

Centered in the city of San Francisco de Macoris, the strike by a wide variety of private-sector workers paralyzed businesses in two northeastern provinces and led to clashes between protesters and security officials.

Protesters set off homemade bombs and traded gunfire with soldiers and police during the four-day strike.

Authorities said 10 people suffered bullet wounds, including a police officer and a soldier. Dr. Jose Abreu, director of the St. Vincent of Paul Hospital in the city, said more than 20 people had been treated for exposure to tear gas or other injuries.

Carlos Reyes Mora, general commander for the police in the region, said about 40 people had been arrested, though protesters said the number was closer to 100.

Most of the violence was in San Francisco, a city rimmed with mansions of drug lords who live lavishly off the proceeds of cocaine smuggled to the United States. Their villas contrast with the wooden shacks of the poor, the majority in the city 45 miles north of Santo Domingo.

President Leonel Fernandez promised during his election campaign last year to extend water and electrical services to the region and to build an airport.

However, since he took office in August, Fernandez has focused on slashing the country’s $4 billion foreign debt and attracting desperately needed foreign investment.

In the negotiations to end the strike, the government promised improvements for the region.

``The government is carrying out in the Duarte province public works worth more than one billion pesos ($71 million),″ said Vinicio Tobar, spokesman for the government team negotiating with the strikers.

The organizers of the strike said the government’s progress in keeping its progress would be evaluated when the 40-day period ends August 13.

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