QUITO, Ecuador -- (AP) -- Police battled hundreds of protesting workers
students in cities across Ecuador on Thursday during a one-day strike against
austerity measures. Three people were reported killed.
Strikers have vowed to force President Jamil Mahuad to rescind austerity
measures he announced Sept. 14 that devalued the currency and ended subsidies
on cooking gas, electricity and diesel fuel.
In Guayaquil, 165 miles southwest of Quito, strikers burned tires and barricaded
streets. Looters ransacked stores in two street markets and a mob destroyed
luxury cars with clubs, witnesses said.
A small bomb exploded in front of the U.S. Consulate in Guayaquil, damaging
pavement, police said.
A police officer died as he carried a bomb found on the sidewalk to a military
in the city of Portoviejo, 150 miles southwest of Quito, police said.
Two men in Guayaquil and Esmeraldas were killed by stray bullets fired
violent demonstrations, police reported. It was not known who fired the shots.
Buses and taxis were scarce in major cities as many drivers respected the
call by Ecuador's largest labor federation, the leftist-led United Workers Front.
On Wednesday, an office of Mahuad's Popular Democracy party in Guayaquil
was bombed, blowing a hole in its main door. The day before, a bomb exploded
in the headquarters of Ecuador's Bishops Conference, injuring a Spanish religious
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombs, but government officials
linked them to radical proponents of the strike. Union leaders have denied the
The strike is the first major challenge to the centrist Mahuad, who took
10, promising to rescue the impoverished South American nation from bankruptcy.
Since Mahuad ended the subsidies, fuel prices have increased by up to 400
percent, causing the cost of many basic food products and public transportation to
Mahuad has said the tough measures are necessary to end 40 percent inflation
trim a ballooning budget deficit that had the country on the verge of financial
``The government is obliged to maintain order. Those who cause disturbances
be arrested,'' Mahuad told reporters Thursday before flying to New York to
attend the United Nations General Assembly.
Ecuador's powerful unions have helped topple governments in the past.
Former President Abdala Bucaram was removed from power in 1997 after unions
led a wave of strikes and protests against a similar economic austerity package.
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald