Thousands of Chilean truckers halted deliveries of food and factory supplies and there were scattered shutdowns in industries and universities today, but opposition Chilean labor leaders won only partial support for a national strike against the government of President Augusto Pinochet.
This evening, strike organizers, hampered by the arrest of labor leaders and government censorship of the news media, said they nevertheless had paralyzed 70 percent of Chile's 46,000 commercial trucks as well as more than half of the plastics, textile and petroleum industries. The nation's largest steel mill, coal mine and concrete factory were reported partially affected.
Most city buses and taxis in Santiago appeared to remain on the streets, however, and businesses and offices were busy and fully staffed. Strike organizers conceded that they remained far short of their announced goal of paralyzing the country in protest against the military government's economic and political policies.
"It is starting slowly, because there has been a lack of information," said Adolfo Quinteros, the leader of the independent truck drivers' union and a principal strike organizer. "This will be a movement that will grow little by little. We are not in any hurry, because this is an indefinite strike."
Officials who are pressing criminal charges aginst Quinteros and 10 other strike leaders began indirect negotitations last night with the striking transport unions in an effort to end the shutdown.
However, by this evening, labor leaders said a settlement to the strike was not yet in sight. The leaders said the government had indicated that it would accept major union demands, including the formation of commissions composed of top officials of the armed forces as well as businessmen, labor leaders and politicians to resolve national problems. But union leaders said they were seeking written commitments from the government and formal talks with government leaders, including the ranking generals of the Army.
Scattered incidents of violence were reported on a mostly quiet, cold day in Santiago. A bomb destroyed the offices of a government community service center early this morning, and students, who struck at every major city university, blocked streets this afternoon at the Catholic University campus here. Police dispersed the demonstrators with volleys of tear gas and detained at least a dozen protesters.
Student leaders charged that an assembly earlier in the day at the University of Chile had been fired on by a passing unmarked car.
Incidents also were reported in the industrial city of Concepcion and elsewhere in Chile, but media censorship and government silence on the strike made immediate confirmation impossible. Most union claims on the extent of the strike in industrial and mining areas also could not be verified independently.
Chilean media have been banned by the government since Monday from mentioning the strike, demonstrations or other political news. The opposition's initiative is the first of its kind in Pinochet's 10 years of rule. Word of the shutdown was communicated by union organizers, pamphlets and stickers that appeared today announcing the work stoppage and adding, "Out with Pinochet."
Gen. Pinochet, who reportedly has been dissuaded inside his government from efforts to crack down on the opposition, continued to mix selective repression with conciliatory gestures--an effort played up by government-controlled media as moves for "national unity."
Two more leaders of the militant Confederation of Copper Workers were reported arrested, raising to 19 the number of labor leaders jailed in the past eight days by court order or by the Chilean secret police. The latter have confirmed detention of three union leaders of the banned Communist Party.
Quinteros, who was arrested by police on Tuesday, was released by a judge last night. The government also filed charges against five other strike leaders today in addition to the six already being prosecuted. Other organizers of the national strike appeared in court today on the government charges, but none was ordered detained.
Five of the leaders met last night with U.S. Ambassador James Theberge in what they said was an effort to explain the strike movement. The embassy said the meeting had been scheduled in advance.
Miners struck at three of the four main copper mines last week, but they were not reported to have joined today's action. The mine strikes resulted in the jailing of seven top leaders of the 23,000-member Confederation of Copper Workers, the firing of at least 1,800 workers, and the placing of two mines under military control. In a conciliatory gesture, government officials have said they will rehire most or all of the fired workers.
Today's strike was called in part to force the release of jailed copper union leaders. The strike coalition, which includes five major union confederations representing 70 percent of organized Chilean workers as well as the powerful transport union, is also demanding major economic reforms, an end to censorship and other restrictions on basic freedoms and progress toward the reestablishment of democracy.
The opposition's most evident success today was with the self-employed truckers, who led a similar strike a decade ago that spread to other sectors of the economy and helped lead to the military's overthrow of Socialist president Salvador Allende.