4 Mar 2010

Columbian strike spreads to second city

The public-transit strike affected the Colombian capital for the third consecutive day on Wednesday. It has resulted in traffic chaos, business losses, clashes between demonstrators and police and more than 200 arrests. Round-the-clock negotiations to end the standoff have broken down.
Bus operators went on strike Monday to reject the municipal government’s proposed Integrated Public Transport System, or SITP, taking some 17,000 vehicles out of circulation in protest. Bus operators are unhappy with the amount of money the city is offering them to take aging, high-polluting buses off the road in connection with the new system, which is scheduled to take effect in early 2012 and substantially reduce the city’s vehicle fleet. Many of these small operators feel it is part of a plan to force them off the roads, and to hand their routes over to multinationals.
Meanwhile, officials in Manizales, a neighbouring city of 415,000, confirmed that some transit operators there also launched protests over differences with the municipal authorities; 75 people have been arrested since Tuesday, while another eight have been injured in clashes with police. Police in the city used tear gas and concussion grenades to disperse a student demonstration, which had been staged to protest the new transit system in that city and an increase in fares.

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