Army deployed in Mozambique strike

MAPUTO - Riot police and soldiers were deployed at Mozambique's main government hospital yesterday amid high tension following the arrest overnight of the leader of a week-old strike by the country's medics.

About a dozen helmeted police patrolled the parking lot of Central Hospital in Maputo while unarmed soldiers kept a watchful eye in the hospital's corridors as the strike by doctors, nurses and support staff entered its second week.

On Sunday night police arrested the leader of the Mozambican Medical Association, Jorge Arroz, holding him for four hours, local media reported.

Authorities said police took him in for questioning and denied local media reports that he had been charged with sedition. He was arrested during a meeting with his striking colleagues.

Police believed some of their plans "were damaging to human rights", the head of operations in the police force, Antonio Pelembe, told state radio.

Both the government and the striking medics accuse each other of using intimidating tactics.

The government says strikers have been locking clinics and hospitals to prevent anyone entering, while strikers say their members have been the victims of "physical and psychological torture".

Despite the wage dispute by doctors, nurses, ambulance staff, cleaners and laboratory staff, the health ministry claims to have the situation under control.

Medical workers, many of whom earn under R5742 a month, want their salaries doubled.

They are dissatisfied with a 15% increase they received last month following a strike in January.

There were no doctors in sight at the emergency rooms of the Maputo Central Hospital yesterday morning.

Mozambican authorities have had to call in military and foreign doctors and volunteers from the international Red Cross, as well as drafting in nursing students to fill in the gaps.

Several retired nurses said they had agreed to come back to work to help out.

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