Have striking coalminers gone too far in protests?
Workers holed up down shafts refuse to come out until public subsidies are restored
Strikers have fired bottle rockets from bazookas fashioned from large steel pipes
Civil Guard officers on Thursday were investigating whether a train accident that seriously injured a 44-year-old man was caused by protesting miners who have been laying tree trunks on rails throughout Asturias.
It was the latest in a series of incidents that have taken place in the coal-mining regions of Asturias and neighboring Castilla-León, where miners have called an indefinite strike to protest the government's plans to cut public subsidies to the industry.
A Renfe commuter train slammed into a trunk near Serín station in Gijón at 5.45am. One of the 13 passengers was injured when part of a branch flew inside the window, authorities said. The injured man, identified by his initials A. L. S. G., was taken to the Hospital de Jove in Gijón, where he was listed as being in a serious condition after suffering concussion.
Miners in Asturias have been trying to cut off all ground transportation in the region, including setting up road blocks, as part of their ongoing protest against the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, which intends to cut 63 percent of the public subsidies that the coal-mining sector relies on to stay in business.
In past instances when rail tracks have been blocked, miners' groups have usually informed Renfe officials beforehand to keep trains from colliding with the obstructions. But the Civil Guard said no one was forewarned before Thursday's accident.
Since early this month, the miners and their supporters throughout the region have been battling with police and Civil Guard, even firing bottle rockets from bazookas fashioned from large steel pipes. Last week, two Civil Guard officers were injured after they were hit by rockets near Oviedo where a road block was set up. Since the strike began, there have been an estimated 170 road blocks and about 30 rail disruptions.
Meanwhile, near Aller, three miners on Thursday spent their 17th day locked inside a mine, while threatening not to leave until the conflict is over. Héctor Berrouet, 25, Cecilio Antuña, 43, and Jorge Díaz, 42, spend their days playing cards and board games. Their fellow miners visit them daily, bringing them food, water, and newspapers. "We are sleeping well," says Jorge, who adds that it was difficult during the first few days when they began their protest. Their only connection to the outside world is through a cellphone. In León, six other miners have been holding a similar protest inside the Santa Cruz de Sil mine since June 4.
Industry Minister José Manuel Soria has said he is willing to meet with mining representatives to see if they can reach an agreement and put an end to the conflict.