Government Widens Crackdown against Opposition-led Strike
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Three teen-agers were shot to death Thursday night in the capital’s slums, according to a human rights group and newspapers. Their deaths brought to six the number of people reported killed during a two-day anti-government strike.
The military government meanwhile charged two news magazines with state security violations in its widening crackdown against the strike, which crippled commuter traffic.
The government news agency ORBE said 36 people were wounded by gunfire and more than 600 demonstrators were arrested during the protest Wednesday and Thursday.
About 75 bombs went off in 12 cities during the two-day protest, including three that shut off electricity Wednesday night to more than half the country’s 12 million people, the news agency said.
Most of the disorders occurred Wednesday. But gunfire was heard for a second night Thursday in the capital’s shantytowns as young people lit bonfires in intersections to block traffic.
The independent Human Rights Commission said Ernesto Rios Cespedes and Francisco Lopez Zuniga, both 18, died in separate neighborhoods patrolled by the army.
Aurelia Luca, a human rights worker, said neighbors told her Cespedes was shot in the head by an army patrol that fired into a group of demonstrators gathered around a bonfire a block away.
The commission said witnesses told it Zuniga was shot in the stomach, but that it was not clear by whom.
Newspapers quoted police sources as saying Alejandro Contreras, 19, was shot to death in a third shantytown during clashes between dissidents and security forces.
Earlier Thursday, riot police used tear gas and water cannon to break up a small demonstration downtown, making 15 arrests.
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.
The government of Gen. Augusto Pinochet had filed criminal indictments Wednesday against 17 strike leaders and imposed an indefinite ban on newscasts by five opposition radio stations.
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 disruiptive 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.
Most of the nation’s truckers joined big-city bus drivers Thursday in keeping their vehicles parked. But many small merchants who shut their businesses Wednesday reopened Thursday.
″The banks stayed open, so I have to do some business to cover my checks,″ said one candy merchant. ″In this kind of regime, nothing is going to change unless everything shuts down at once.″
The anti-government protest was called by the center-left Civic Assembly, founded by independent businessmen with economic grievances. They were joined later by militant students and slum residents.
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.
Pinochet brushed off the strike in brief remarks at a ceremony in which he accepted an award from Chile’s Historic Society. ″What Chile expects is seriousness and responsibility,″ he said, ″not anarchy and revolution.″
″The situation is totally under control,″ Gen. Osvaldo Hernandez, governor of metropolitan Santiago, said during a tour of working-class districts under patrol by hundreds of soldiers.
Meanwhile, 17 Chileans and several sympathizers occupied the Chilean consulate in Hamburg, West Germany, for about four hours Thursday to demonstrate support for the strikers. The protesters tossed pictures of Pinochet out the window and then left without incident.