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In the land of the crucified bus drivers

Lucas Fernandez and María Concepción Candia are among 10 Para- guayans crucifying themselves to protest the sacking of eight workers from a bus company. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz.)


In Paraguay, when people say that workers are literally being crucified, what they mean is that workers are being crucified … literally.

In other words, they mean that workers are being impaled on wooden crosses, with nails driven through the palms of their hands.

In fact, the workers in question are submitting voluntarily to these extreme measures, but you could say they've been forced to such behaviour out of sheer desperation. This has been going on for about a month.

“The crucified workers are in a delicate state of health, owing to the injuries caused by the nails,” reports one news outlet, “and, although they receive medical assistance, every day they are weaker.”

Nine of the crucified individuals are bus drivers striking on behalf of fellow workers who were recently sacked by their employer, Empresa Vanguardia, a transportation company in the city of Luque, about 15 km. from the Paraguayan capital. The 10th person is María Concepción Candia, wife of Juan Villalba, one of the crucified bus drivers.

The 10 are protesting the dismissal earlier this summer of eight drivers, all apparently sacked for seeking improved pay and other benefits and for trying to establish a union. The protesters say they were compelled to work 15 to 18 hours at a stretch, received less than the minimum wage, and had no pensions.

Attempts by the Paraguayan government to broker an agreement between the two sides have so far failed. According to a report in Diario Popular, an Asunción newspaper, the crucified workers decided Tuesday to intensify their protests by going without food or water. They say they are willing to accept “the ultimate consequences.”

Oakland Ross is a foreign affairs reporter for the Toronto Star.





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