Friday, October 16, 2009

General Strike in Puerto Rico

General Strike in Puerto Rico:
SAN JUAN, Oct 15 (Reuters) - A general strike in Puerto
Rico by public workers protesting government layoffs gripped
the capital's financial district on Thursday, shutting many
businesses and schools and disrupting official agencies.

Labor unions in the U.S. Caribbean island territory called
the 24-hour strike to protest the firing of thousands of
workers by the government, which is trying to shrink a $3.2
billion budget deficit.

Governor Luis Fortuno, who last month announced the firing
of 17,000 public workers, appealed for calm and said layoffs
would avoid further downgrade of the island's credit rating.

"Nobody supports firings, but there was no other option,"
he told local media. Over 4,000 workers were fired in June.

Puerto Rico's unemployment rate was 15.8 percent in August,
higher than any U.S. state.

The island, which has a population of nearly 4 million and
is a manufacturing hub for petrochemical, pharmaceutical and
technology companies, as well as a major tourism destination,
has been in recession for more than three years.

Police guarded government buildings in San Juan as
protesters converged on the Hato Rey financial district near
Plaza Las Americas, the Caribbean's largest mall.

The mall, with 300 stores and more than 10,000 employees,
shut its doors, as other area businesses and private schools.

With sound trucks blasting music, strikers chanted
"Struggle yes, surrender no" and held placards that read "Work
not Welfare."

Truck drivers tied up traffic in early morning protests and
many streets were empty as residents opted to stay home

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