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Thousands Join Paraguay General Strike

Asunción, December 22 (teleSUR-RHC)-- Thousands of Paraguayan workers protested on Monday to demand higher wages and better conditions.

Workers declared a general strike across the country and rallied against the right-wing government of President Horacio Cartes. Among the key demands of labor organizers is a call for a 25 percent wage increase, pension reforms and a relaxation of heavy restrictions on the freedom of association.

The protest is the second general strike to rattle Paraguay since Cartes took office in April 2013.  The president's approval rating has collapsed since he came to office.

Labor rights activists have accused Cartes' government of stifling worker rights, including making it more difficult for unions to organize.

The strike comes as Paraguay hosts a summit of the regional trade bloc Mercosur, and a major security crackdown. As many as 2,000 troops have been deployed to maintain security during the summit.

This is the bloc’s first meeting since the recent elections in Argentina and Venezuela, which could result in a shift in the bloc’s dynamics as most of the governments of the member countries over the last decade and a half have been left-leaning with close ties to Venezuela.

Mauricio Macri, the newly sworn-in president of Argentina, demanded the release of those he described as “political prisoners” in Venezuela.  He also commented on the recent parliamentary elections in Venezuela, branding the right-wing victory a “step forward,” while praising the Maduro government for accepting the results.

During the summit on Monday, the pro-tempore chair of the block was passed to Uruguay and the draft document, elaborated by each country’s delegation, was approved by heads of state who will implement it over the coming year. 
Edited by Ivan Martínez
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