One Person Shot in Guatemala Transit Strike

GUATEMALA CITY – One person was wounded and 16 others arrested Monday in disturbances linked to a nationwide strike by Guatemala’s intercity bus operators.

Paramedics reported that one person was shot during a confrontation in the capital between strikers and bus riders.

A spokesman for the police, Donald Gonzalez, told reporters that so far 16 drivers and their assistants involved in blocking roads have been arrested and several buses have been seized.

Security forces began removing buses that had been positioned to block different highways leading into Guatemala City.

The interior minister, Carlos Menocal, ordered the police to open up the highways with the aim of facilitating cargo transport.

Carlos Amador, of the Cacif business federation, told radio stations that the transit strike and the blockades are causing incalculable economic losses.

Meanwhile the president of the Guatemalan Chamber of Commerce, Jorge Briz, urged the government to enforce the rule of law.

More than 37,000 intercity bus drivers on Monday halted providing service nationwide to demand that the government provide better security and subsidies for passenger transport.

A leader of one bus operators association, Roberto Estrada, told radio stations that intercity drivers wanted to share in the subsidies paid to transit operators in Guatemala City.

In 2009, 146 bus drivers and 60 assistants were murdered, while so far in 2010 more than 20 have been killed in violent incidents.

Hundreds of thousands of passenger transport users have been affected by the strike, which transport workers say they will maintain until the government provides a solution to their demands.

The Education Ministry on Monday issued a call to parents not to send their children to school for the day because of the lack of public transport, although it said that classes had not been suspended. EFE

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