Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Delayed train sparks riot in Buenos Aires

By Marie Trigona

Enraged train commuters rioted in a major rail station in Buenos Aires on May 16. Delays in railway services sparked violent riots in Buenos Aires, when commuters set fire to parts of a train station during rush hour.

Angry passengers lobbed rocks at ticket booths, and set fire to automated ticket dispensers and police offices inside the Constitucion train station, the largest station in Buenos Aires with more than 300,000 users daily. About an hour after the violence erupted, riot police clashed with protesting passengers; shooting tear gas, rubber bullets and arresting 16 people.

Overcrowding has plagued the railway, leading from Constitucion station in downtown Buenos Aires to the capital's poor southern suburbs, since services were privatized in the 1990's. Passengers interviewed after the riot, complained to news cameras that poor service is “an everyday event.” Many said they were tired of traveling like cattle everyday.

The government pays a 5.5 million dollar subsidy every month to the private concession Trenes Metropolitanos running train services. The state-run commuter rail was privatized in 1999, under the administration of former president Carlos Menem.

Human rights groups continue to rally for the release of Roberto Canteros, political prisoner since 2005. Canteros was arrested during a train commuter riot, when passengers fed up with poor service destroyed a local train station in Haedo, a suburb of Buenos Aires in November 2005.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

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