> Argentine officers suspended after clashes with unionists
> By Gilbert Le Gras, Reuters, 4/20/2000
> BUENOS AIRES - Argentine police clashed outside Congress with unionized
> truckers and garbage collectors protesting a labor reform plan
> yesterday,
> prompting authorities to suspend 12 officers for excessive use of force.
> Police clubbed union members outside the Congress building in downtown
> Buenos Aires and one officer slashed a man with a knife, prompting calls
> for
> an official inquiry into the conduct of the officers. Fourteen people
> remained hospitalized after the clashes, reports said.
> Hundreds of members of trucker and garbage-collector unions staged a
> 12-hour
> protest outside Congress and managed to halt discussion of labor reforms
> demanded by the International Monetary Fund that they contend will not
> cut
> six years of double-digit unemployment, as the center-left Alliance
> government hopes.
> Television images showed five police officers clubbing one protester who
> lay
> sprawled on the sidewalk with blood pouring from his head. Another TV
> station showed a police officer pulling a knife from one protester who
> had
> been wrestled to the ground and slashing him across the back.
> ''Without a doubt those violent episodes are absolutely prosecutable,
> and
> everyone who has committed a crime should be tried, like those who used
> inappropriate weapons, which is an abuse of force,'' Justice Minister
> Ricardo Gil Lavedra said.
> A police statement said 43 people were arrested while Interior Minister
> Federico Storani said 12 police officers were suspended for excessive
> use of
> force.
> Hundreds of truckers and garbage collectors gathered in front of the
> Congress building and by mid-morning had blocked the main roads leading
> to
> Congress.
> Police erected chain-link fences around Congress that protesters kicked
> and
> rammed, then hurled garbage at police.
> ''This government is so desperate to meet its IMF commitments it's
> willing
> to use force on its own people,'' said one woman as protesters waved
> ''United Left'' and ''Down with antiworker labor reform'' banners behind
> her.
> The legislation that prompted the protest would reduce severance
> packages
> and cut costly red tape involved in hiring workers, update labor
> contracts
> and simplify wage talks. The protesters said the measure would cut their
> wages, not speed economic recovery, as the government claims.
> After the clashes, senior members of the opposition Peronist Party said
> the
> vote on the measure would be delayed for now. The bill already was
> passed by
> the lower house of Congress and was before the Senate, where the
> Peronists
> hold a majority.
> This story ran on page A14 of the Boston Globe on 4/20/2000.
>  Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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