KINGSTON, Jamaica (CNN) -- Authorities in the Jamaican capital and
elsewhere braced Wednesday for a third day of violent protests over gasoline
tax hikes that have left at least four people dead and dozens injured.
Public opposition began Friday after the government unveiled a 30 percent
fuel tax increase, causing gas prices to soar from $1.55 to $2.00 per gallon
($O.41 to $0.53 per liter).
Demonstrations were held in Kingston on Monday and quickly spread to
smaller towns across the Caribbean island of 2.5 million people.
An overnight curfew failed to halt Tuesday's protests. Bus and taxi drivers
parked their vehicles and joined the demonstrations, bringing traffic in the
capital to a near standstill.
Angry crowds hurled stones and robbed motorists who managed to avoid
the roadblocks. Other mobs looted stores and banks.
Kingston authorities said a pregnant woman was shot and killed Tuesday
while looting a hardware store, although it was unclear whether police or
looters were responsible. An off-duty soldier died after a confrontation with
On Wednesday, a man was killed in a shootout with police and a woman
was accidentally shot by stray bullets during an exchange of gunfire between
police and protesters in Tawes Pen, St. Catherine, west of Kingston,
As many as 23 people were admitted to Kingston Public Hospital, most
suffering from gunshot wounds, said the hospital's executive officer, Carlene
Prime minister urges calm
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson appeared on national television late Tuesday
and urged calm. The army has been deployed to contain the crisis and
reservists were called to their barracks.
Patterson promised to appoint a commission to examine ways to lessen the
severity of the hikes, which he said were necessary.
Patterson said the increases "provided the best means to continue critical
expenditure in transportation, education, health, roads and inner-city
Opposition leader Edward Seaga said he would continue to protest the
government budget. His Jamaica Labor Party planned a march in Kingston
"The situation is very serious, but the people are very serious too and
no intention of giving up," Seaga said. "They are determined that they must
have a positive response before they withdraw their demonstration."
Flights, cruises canceled
The protests have also had a negative impact on the tourist industry. Airlines
canceled some flights Wednesday and the U.S. Embassy warned American
citizens and tourists to stay off the streets.
Several cruise ships also have canceled trips. Rioters looted shops and
burned a large sugar plantation in Montego Bay, a popular tourist destination
in the northwest.
Business leaders have shown little support for the government and are
worried that the protests will have a more devastating impact on the
economy than the actual tax increases.
"The gas tax will be a joke compared to the money we are going to lose
tourism," said entrepreneur Gordon "Butch" Stewart, who owns the Sandals
hotel resort chain.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.