In the middle of last week in Guyana, riot police opened fire on a group of peaceful supporters of the main Afro-dominated opposition party in the country, killing three people and injuring 20 in one of the bloodiest days in the 20-year rule of the Indo-supported governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP).

The shooting of the unarmed group of Black Guyanese occurred as authorities plunged the mining town of Linden, 65 miles southwest of the capital city, Georgetown, into darkness, then let loose sustained rifle fire on women, children, youths and the elderly, causing mayhem and triggering widespread local and international criticisms.

The move by riot police, who were acting under orders from the national security ministry, occurred on a main river bridge linking the city and the southern regions of the Caribbean trade bloc headquarter nation of 750,000. The Lindeners were protesting planned steep increases in electricity rates that would have seen consumers paying as much as $120 monthly–up from a current average of $30 and about $50 more than what is paid by those in the city and other urban areas.

Most Lindeners believe that the Indo administration of Hindu President Donald Ramotar is dumping the increases on the bauxite mining community because it voted overwhelmingly for the A Partnership for National Unity party, headed by retired army commander Brig. Gen. David Granger. The party remains adamant that the PPP cheated it from gaining power in general elections last November.

Ramotar’s cabinet says they want area citizens to pay the same rates as those in other areas, even though Bosai Minerals of China is the main, if not only economic driver in the area, and despite the fact that the district’s power company has recorded a decent profit and has not complained about the tariff situation.

As a result, leaders called for five days of protests that included the blockade of the river bridge. The protestors also appear to have earned support from most businesses in the area as they closed in solidarity with the angry supporters. Even National Security Minister Clement Rohee said the demonstrators were “peaceful protestors” and had harmed no one at the time riot police fired indiscriminately into the crowd.

What started as five days of demonstrations against the increases has now escalated into a full-fledged shutdown of the town and the stranding of fuel, food and other supply trucks heading to the interior on both sides of the bridge.

Supporters in the city are sending money, food and other items to keep the strike going. It may also eventually spread to the city, though Ramotar has appealed for calm and good sense and has promised that the rates will be reviewed by joint government and opposition teams.

The cabinet, he said, will take “all the available and practical options and attendant implications, financial and otherwise, to move this process along.” Ramotar complained about the blockading of major arteries in the area, saying, “If this continues, it will do irreparable harm to the opportunities for investments aimed at creating more jobs and improving the living standards for the Linden community and region as a whole.”

Even the Indo-Guyanese who support the PPP in large numbers say the police move was brutal, barbaric, unnecessary and a major blunder by the administration.