Three killed in riot over increased electricity rates
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Friday July 20, 2012 – The atmosphere remains tense in the Guyana mining town of Linden following a violent clash between police and protesters on Wednesday evening that left three dead and many injured.
The carnage came amidst protests stemming from the government's introduction of higher electricity rates in the town of about 30,000 people. Residents are contending they cannot afford the hike at this time, and some businesses temporarily shut down in sympathy.
Protesters used old vehicles and other debris to block the Wismar-Mackenzie Bridge, a major artery to the mining interior, from mid-morning on Wednesday until they clashed with police around 6:00pm.
Police resorted to firing rubber pellets at the demonstrators after tear gas failed to disperse a group that had occupied the bridge all day.
Eyewitnesses said the tear gas volleys fell short of the crowd, since they were fired from the vicinity of the Linden Hospital Complex, and protesters retaliated by pelting the police with bottles. At least six persons were said to have been seriously injured in the melee, while several more escaped with minor injuries.
Regional Administrative Chairman Sharma Solomon said on Wednesday night that three males were killed including a handicapped child.
Sharma accused the police of using both live rounds and rubber pellets on the protesters and described the situation in Linden Wednesday evening as “pandemonium.”
“Dozens of persons have been injured,” he declared.
There were also reports of several buildings on fire including the General Office which houses the offices of Linden Electricity Company CEO Horace James and the finance area where Lindeners usually pay their electricity bills.
Mackenzie, on the eastern bank of the Demerara River, was reportedly plunged into a blackout, but the cause is not clear. The Linden Utility Cooperatives Society Limited (LUSCL) turned off its supply to residents of Wismar on the western side of the river for most of the day.
Up to Thursday, protesters were still congregating in the area of the bridge in what was described as a “tense standoff” with police and defence force personnel.
Some temporary residents and foreign nationals are said to be leaving the south-western Guyana bauxite mining town.
Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar says an investigation into the matter will be opened once calm has been restored.