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Guyana counting economic backlash
After counting the casualties, Guyana yesterday began measuring the economic impact of social unrest in the bauxite-mining town of Linden and the subsequent, unrela ted collapse early yesterday of a portion of the famed Demerara Harbour Bridge, 105 kilometres downstream, near the capital city of Georgetown. Protesting residents remained on the streets of Linden yesterday and continued their occupation of the important Kara Kara bridge, linking the town to a significant part of the country’s resource-rich hinterland. This followed last week’s protests over an increase in electricity rates that left three dead and more than a dozen injured. Yesterday, nearer the capital, there was the added turmoil of the early-morning collapse of a portion of the two-kilometre-long 61- span Demerara pontoon bridge.
The incident led to several minor injuries and a drowning scare, involving occupants of a minibus making the two-kilometre crossing. The bridge is not expected to be functional until tomorrow at the earliest. There was chaos on both sides of the river after the closure of the bridge as travellers scrambled to board boats bound for the Vreeden- Hoop and Stabroek wharves on either side of the river. At the bridge’s eastern tollbooth area, several trucks, mini-buses and private cars remained parked, with their drivers willing to wait it out in their vehicles, some sulking loudly that an alternative crossing accommodating vehicles had been too long in coming. In Linden, there are no official financial estimates but gold and diamond miners are already using alternative routes out of distant mining operations, leading to considerable delays and added costs. Tourism and other commercial road travel also has been suspended while road blockages by protesters continue. Meanwhile, the Demerara crossing near Georgetown facilitates a thriving trade in agricultural produce from the vast Essequibo region and is a bustling commercial route and link between many city workers and their homes along the west bank of the river.
Linden residents are protesting a 400 per cent increase in electricity rates. Yesterday, agitation continued to shift in the direction of Georgetown as about 25 demonstrators assembled outside the office of Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, calling for his resignation and a fast and comprehensive investigation into the death of the Linden protesters. Among the demonstrators was former People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Information Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who is now an opposition Alliance for Change (AFC) parliamentarian. Nagamootoo said his former Cabinet colleague, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee, should resign over the Linden killings. He claimed the minister had for sometime signalled the start of more hard-line action against anti-Government protesters. “He is intellectual author of the surge to contain the demonstrations,” Nagamootoo told T&T Guardian. “He has been rehearsing for about two weeks now, saying there will be instability,” he added. But Rohee was on state television on Sunday evening, explaining he was not in operational control of the police operation last Wednesday that led to the shooting of rate-hike demonstrators.
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