Three Killed in Strike in Chile
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Tens of thousands of shopkeepers, bus drivers and truckers returned to work today after anti-government strikes and demonstrations that left six young slum residents dead, 56 others wounded and more than 600 arrested.
Three of the victims died Thursday night amid a barrage of gunfire from army and police patrols around Santiago, the capital. Hundreds of soldiers stayed on the streets until after dawn, and by then the city was calm.
The two-day protest halted most of Chile’s urban commuter transport and overnight freight Wednesday and Thursday but failed to shut factories, banks, mines or public offices.
President Augusto Pinochet on Thursday said the protest was a failed attempt to depose his 13-year-old military government by ″revolution and anarchy.″
But his critics said most of the violence came from the army and police.
The Rev. Juan Francisco Fresno, archbishop of Santiago, appealed to the military to ″refrain from these actions that seem excessive ...″
The government brought state security charges against two dissident news magazines on Thursday, a day after it indicted 17 strike leaders and banned newscasts by five opposition radio stations.
The anti-government strike was called by politically active founders of a center-left Civic Assembly, led by small, independent businessmen with economic grievances. It was joined by militant students and slum residents who took to the streets.
Gunfire was heard for a second night Thursday in shantytowns around the capital’s working class perimeter as young people lit bonfires in intersections to block traffic. Witnesses said police and soldiers were using their firearms.
″Soldiers are all over the place, shooting in the air from trucks and behind trees,″ housewife Alejandra Soto told The Associated Press by phone from an apartment building near the National Stadium.
Police said gunfire of unknown origin killed Ernesto Rios Cespedes and Francisco Lopez Zuniga, both 18, and Alejandro Contreras, 19, in separate neighborhoods patroled by the military.
Aurelia Luca, a neighbor, said Cespedes was shot in the head by an army soldier firing at a group of dissidents around a bonfire in the La Legua district.
″He told his mother yesterday he wanted to quit school and join the army so he could change it from within,″ Miss Luca said of the victim, a Catholic University mechanical design major. ″He made a poster in his room that said: ’When I become a soldier, I will tell them not to shoot at the people.‴
Two young men and a 13-year-old girl were killed in street disorders in Santiago on Wednesday.
The government news agency ORBE reported before the evening casualties that 36 people were wounded, more than 600 arrested and 75 bombs set off during the strike, including three blasts that shut off electricity Wednesday night to more than half the country’s 12 million people.
The Interior Ministry announced charges against the editor and 26 staff members of Analisis and a newsman for Cauce, two opposition magazines that had reported favorably on plans for the strike.
Government prosecutor Ambrosio Rodriguez accused Cauce of ″defending terrorist acts″ in a published interview with clandestine guerrilla leaders. He said Analisis continuously defamed Pinochet, incited violence, questioned the government’s legitimacy and urged soldiers to disobey their commanders.
″The magazine has won other cases like this in the civilian courts, so we are confident,″ said Analisis editor Juan Pablo Cardenes.
The journalists each face up to five years in prison if a civilian judge heeds the government’s request to prosecute them and they are convicted.
The two magazines were among six closed by the government during a seven- month state of siege lifted a year ago under U.S. government pressure. Cauce is owned by Social Democrats and Analisis by Socialists.
Though the strike was one of the most disruptive in 13 years of Pinochet’s authoritiarian rule, dissident labor leaders acknowledged Thursday it had not been heeded by blue-collar workers, who feared losing their jobs, or by industrialists, who largely back the government.
Business leaders said factory absenteeism was less than 15 percent.
Pinochet, 70, seized power from elected President Salvador Allende, a Marxist, in a 1973 coup. He has vowed to stay in office at least until 1989.