Striking Cane Cutters Fight Police, 2 Killed
SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) _ Gunfire broke out during a battle between riot police and striking sugar cane cutters Friday, and two people were reported killed, including a teen-age girl on her way home from a bakery.
Police in Leme, an agricultural town 115 miles north of Sao Paulo, said 24 people were injured, half of them officers, but none seriously.
Floriano Marques, director of the local farm workers’ union, said in a telephone interview: ″The town turned into a battlefield early Friday morning when riot troopers started shooting tear gas cannisters and swinging rubber truncheons to disperse workers manning picket lines.
″The workers defended themselves with rocks and pieces of wood. Suddenly shots rang out and two people were killed,″ he said.
Marques said he did not know who fired the shots, ″but we think it was the police because none of the strikers had firearms.″
A policeman in Leme, Marcos Silva, said by telephone that those killed were a 16-year-old girl who had gone on an errand to the bakery and a 22-year-old cane cutter.
He said authorities had not determined who fired the shots.
Silva, who gave the figures on people injured, said riot troopers were sent to disperse picketers who were preventing non-striking workers from getting to their jobs at the five sugar mills near Leme.
About 6,000 cane cutters, all migrant workers, began a strike for more money two weeks ago.
Marques said pay now ranges from $29 to $50 a week, depending on individual production, and they want increases that would bring wages to between $80 and $110.