Bogota mayor calls in army to confront bus strike chaos

Bogota’s mayor increased security measures Thursday to deal with growing tensions among some 7 million Bogotanos, as the bus strike in the nation’s capital enters its fourth day.

Mayor Samuel Moreno called in several hundred members of the armed forces to patrol the city’s main thoroughfares, the TransMilenio stops and buses, and to watch over private vehicles and taxis.

Moreno said his administration is also considering a security plan that would see 500 extra police patrolling Bogota’s main throughfares.

The mayor also suspended classes Thursday and Friday in public secondary schools, authorized individual taxis to provide collective services and continued the suspension of “pico y placa” – the system that restricts the days that car owners may use their vehicles.

All public transportation vehicles will also be allowed freedom from official routes.

Twenty buses will be added to the Transmilenio system, and the “Tren al Sabana” – normally a Sunday tourist train that goes to Zipaquira – will be used as a commuter system while the strike continues.

Negotiations between the government and transport union Apetrans on Wednesday failed to produce an agreement to end the strike that has paralyzed the city all week.

Apetrans called the strike of some 16,000 Bogota bus drivers from 12 AM Monday morning. Entering into its third day, the bus strike leaves thousands of Bogotanos without transportation.

Semana reported that frustrations have led to acts of violence against cars and buildings resulting in an estimated $400,000 worth of damage. Police also reported clashes with protesters.

The National Federation of Shop-keepers (Fenalco) reported close to a 60% drop in sales in Bogota due to the strike. Gas distributors have also reported great losses.

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