Monday, May 21, 2007

Argentina: Train Station Riots Over Privitzations

Angry passengers attacked and destroyed offices, before burning them down in protest at the atrocious state of the privatised service.

The trouble started when a train broke down 600 metres from Constitucion station, south of Buenos Aires. After 20 minutes a group of passengers (these trains are packed solid with no air conditioning and little ventilation) walked to the station to demand answers. When they did not get any they began to destroy the information offices.

The train had blocked one of the major lines into the station and hundreds other frustrated passengers in the station joined in. Ticket offices and the railway police offices were set on fire and destroyed. Riot police then used tear gas and rubber bullets on the crowd. 12 police officers and 9 workers were injured in the clashes and 16 arrests were made.

There have been a series of confrontations on the Argentinian railways with workers blaming privatisation for the atrocious service. With trains frequently breaking down, fewer carriages on trains, and services subject to frequent cancellations. There has also been a rise in the number of accidents with 410 deaths and over 1000 injuries reported last year.

Since privatisation some two thirds of Argentina's rail network has been closed due to unprofitability, in the process destroying many rural towns. The obvious under-investment by the companies and their refusal to listen to passenger protests has lead to these outbursts of violence and also to a growing movement calling for the railways to be taken out of private hands, with many existing passenger groups joining the umbrella group Recuperemos al Tren (recuperate the trains)



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