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Last Updated: Friday, 30 January, 2004, 10:27 GMT
Several dead in Dominican clashes
Gleywi Abreu, left, cries during the wake of her husband Jairon del Orbe, 23, in Santo Domingo after he was killed on Tuesday night
Wakes are being held for the victims
Protests in the Dominican Republic over the government's economic policies have left at least five people dead.

The clashes between police and protesters occurred during a 48-hour strike which closed shops and schools, and left public buses sitting idle.

Protesters oppose the adoption of policies proposed by the International Monetary Fund following the small Caribbean country's economic nosedive.

But President Hipolito Mejia said that "with the strike, we all lose".

Bullets and rocks

Some reports said as many as eight people were killed in the clashes on Wednesday and Thursday.

Most of the victims appear to have died from bullet wounds in confrontations with police. Other deaths are reported from clashes with stone-throwing supporters of the government.

More than 60 people were injured in the strike, which hit towns across the country, Reuters news agency reported.

Among those who died was Jose Vasquez Castro, an organiser in the union coalition that called for the strike.

Ramon Perez Figuereo, spokesman for the coalition, said Castro had been shot in the head by police in the capital, Santo Domingo.

Mr Figuereo told the BBC the government was to blame for the unrest and had provoked protesters. He said 400 had been arrested.

He said 97% of businesses had observed the strike.

President Mejia condemned the unrest, saying "protests do not lead to solutions".

Economic crisis

He said the shutdown would have cost the economy some 3bn pesos ($60m).

The country's economy crashed last year after the collapse of a leading bank, Baniter. Inflation soared, pushing up prices and effectively cutting wages. There are also regular power shortages.

The government has negotiated a $600m loan from the IMF, but the opposition has demanded a moratorium on foreign debt and inflation relief.

The humans rights organisation Amnesty International called for a full inquiry into the deaths of at least six people in clashes during another strike last November.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Juliet Dunlop
"Clashes between police and protesters have a habit of turning nasty in the Dominican Republic"



SEE ALSO:
Rights body urges Dominican probe
13 Nov 03  |  Americas
Dominican protests turn violent
12 Nov 03  |  Americas
Dominicans arrest union activists
10 Nov 03  |  Americas
Dominicans protest at high prices
16 Mar 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Dominican Republic
11 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Dominican Republic
11 Mar 03  |  Country profiles


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