MONTEVIDEO – The police in charge of the Uruguay’s Libertad maximum security prison went on strike on Monday and prevented several dozen relatives of inmates from visiting their loved ones, a protest aimed at securing better food and working conditions, government authorities said.
Interior Minister Eduardo Bonomi, a very close ally of Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, asked his counterpart in the Labor and Social Security Ministry, Eduardo Brenta, to declare the work of the police at the prison to be an “essential service.”
“Security is an essential issue for the country,” said Bonomi in remarks to local media to justify his request.
When the Labor and Social Security Ministry declares some service to be essential this legally prevents those who provide that service from going on strike or engaging in a work stoppage.
The guards at the Libertad prison, which houses some 2,000 prisoners considered to be highly dangerous, complained that in some cases they have been required to work 18-hour shifts and that the food they receive is bad.
Because of the strike, about 60 relatives of inmates were not allowed to enter the facility for visiting hours.
The Libertad prison is so named because it is located on the outskirts of the city of Libertad, in San Jose province about 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of Montevideo. EFE