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Traffic snarled across Trinidad as police block roads

March 23, 2015

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) — Police in Trinidad and Tobago on Monday blocked major roadways and paralyzed traffic in the twin-island Caribbean nation amid a salary dispute with the government.

Roadblocks forced exasperated motorists to sit in traffic jams for hours. The gridlock kept passengers from reaching the airport, prompting some airlines to delay flights, and forced several businesses and schools to close. Many students were unable to take end-of-term exams.

While police are negotiating for higher pay, union officials did not describe the gridlock as a job action. But police welfare association official Roger Alexander implied the police roadblocks would last all day, suggesting that people “walk with your breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

He told a morning TV program the roadblocks across the twin-island country were meant to “show the importance of the police on the ground.”

The islands’ national security minister met Monday afternoon in an emergency meeting with leaders of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service to try to ease the impasse.

Police are demanding a 14 percent salary hike. It’s not clear what the government is offering.

Opposition lawmaker Jack Warner urged police to rethink negotiation tactics, saying thousands of law-abiding citizens were being “imprisoned in vehicles that are stranded in the traffic.”

“The innocent public should be made to pay the price for the dispute between the police and the government,” Warner said in a statement.

Trinidad and Tobago is the second biggest energy producer in the Caribbean after nearby Venezuela.

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