December 21, 2014
Driver’s murder prompts bus strike
Getting around yesterday in Buenos Aires City and the province turned into a living nightmare due to a sudden strike called by most metropolitan bus lines. The protest was launched by the UTA transport workers union following the killing of a bus-driver, Leonardo Paz (22), in a robbery attempt while he was working the night shift.
Late in the evening, police sources informed that a man was arrested carrying a gun of similar characteristics to the one that had been allegedly used during the attack on a Line 56 bus in the Greater Buenos Aires province district of La Matanza.
“We can’t take these levels of insecurity anymore. The problem of criminality has completely outstripped the fighting capacity of the police and the Border Guards who are surely doing everything in their reach, but crimes can’t be contained,” UTA head Roberto Fernández said.
The strike began at noon and was to end at midnight. With nearly 200 bus lines paralyzed — taking those in Greater Buenos Aires and those that enter Buenos Aires City — returning home was almost impossible for commuters.
Transport and Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo condemned the walkout. Randazzo urged BA province Governor Daniel Scioli to find a solution to the demands issued by UTA leaders. Randazzo and Scioli are potential rivals in a Peronist presidential primary next year.
Later in the afternoon, when images of an overcrowded Retiro terminal train station and a completely-jammed General Paz avenue were shown on television, Randazzo toughened his tone. The minister called the strike “savage” and formally urged the union to lift it.
However, UTA’s Fernández took aim at Scioli for the lack of response to the numerous demands voiced by the union for better security measures for bus divers, especially during the night shift.
“Provincial leaders are only dedicated to running for the presidency and ignore all issues concerning security conditions for workers”.
At 4.30am yesterday, two armed men climbed on a Line 56 bus when the vehicle stropped at the crossing of Boulogne Sur Mer street and Riccheri Highway’s side lane. Apprentice driver Paz, who was being accompanied by an experienced colleague in his second week at work, was behind the steering-wheel.
According to police Inspector Sergio Bianchi, the head of the BA province Police’s West Zone delegation, soon after the thieves got on the bus, they started to rob the 10 commuters on board.
“It was then that a Federal Police officer who was dressed as a civilian and travelling at the back, ordered them to surrender and the robbers threw everything to the floor and started running,” Bianchi told the news agency DyN.
Before escaping, one of the attackers opened fire and wounded Paz twice. The driver later died in hospital as a result of his injuries.
Bianchi declared that the policeman who was travelling on the bus did not open fire while on the bus. On the contrary, he jumped after the aggressors and chased them, but was unsuccessful.
The storm that raged over the City soon after midday came together with the subway fare hike that started yesterday — most commuters turned to the Subte as an alternative way home after the strike was called.
“It’s incredible that the subway rate fare keeps going up and no-one does anything about it,” 57-year old Susana told state-run news agency Télam on Constitución station on Line C.
“When they took the fare to 3.50 pesos, they promised to improve the service. However, this stop is a disaster: the escalator never works and it’s always dirty. Even if you come at seven in the morning, you still have to travel all crushed among the large number of commuters”.
Two injunctions were filed in court by opposition legislators in a bid to freeze the hike. But at press time there was no ruling even when the time-limit given by City judge Elena Liberatori to City Hall for explaining the reason for the increase had expired at noon.
A group of activists from the CCC class-struggle movement took action in their own hands by freeing access at the Line E “Virreyes” stop from 6 to 9am.
Starting from yesterday, the metro ticket went up to 4.50 pesos for the first 20 rides if paid with the “Sube” or “Monedero” cards. The tariff goes down to 3.60 pesos during the next 10 rides, 3.15 for the other 10 and, finally, it sinks to 2.70 pesos from ride No. 41.
“The new tariff scheme benefits those who use it the most because the fare goes down. Nowadays, more than half of it is being paid by all residents because it is heavily subsided”, argued Mayor Mauricio Macri.
In response, subway workers union leader Roberto Pianelli accused centre-right party PRO leader of promoting an “elitist subway.”
— Herald staff with DyN, Télam.