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Yugoslavs Defy Crackdown in Two Cities

October 11, 1988|CHARLES T. POWERS | Times Staff Writer

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia — Students and factory workers in two major cities defied authorities in the southern republic of Montenegro on Monday as a crackdown continued against public demonstrations in Yugoslovia.

Roadblocks were set up on highways leading to Titograd, the republic's capital, and Niksic, about 30 miles to the west, as the authorities imposed "emergency measures" to halt demonstrations that began last week with workers and students demanding the resignation of Communist Party and government leaders.

The protests were scaled down considerably from Saturday, when policemen drove a crowd of 20,000 from the grounds of the Parliament building in Titograd. Students in Titograd continued a hunger strike Monday, although there were no more gatherings outside government buildings.

Clearly, the local authorities, with the backing of Yugoslavia's federal government, have decided to stand firm against the demonstrators.

But at least one official backed down. Radivoje Brajovic, a member of Montenegro's collective executive leadership and until recently its president, told an angry crowd of workers at Niksic that he is resigning.

Brajovic had been sent to Niksic from Titograd in an effort to calm workers demanding the ouster of regional leaders after force was used against demonstrators Saturday.

On Friday, a demonstration involving a crowd estimated at 100,000 forced the government of the Serbian province of Vojvodina to resign.

The demonstrators, virtually all Serbians and followers of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, were protesting political corruption, declining living standards and the treatment of the Serbian minority in the autonomous Serbian region of Kosovo, which is now dominated by ethnic Albanians.

The hasty resignations by officials in Vojvodina shook Yugoslavia's Communist leaders, who feared that Milosevic's growing political strength among the country's 8 million Serbs--the total population is 23 million--could spread to Montenegro, which has a large Serbian population.

Support for Crackdown

So far, however, the demonstrations have been contained there, and statements of support for the Montenegro decision to use the police to crack down on the protests have come from each of Yugoslavia's republics except Serbia.

Most of the demonstrations so far have been orchestrated carefully by Milosevic's supporters. The angry crowds shout down politicians trying to speak to them but listen attentively to Milosevic and disperse quickly on his command.

Although the wave of protests has frightened Communist leaders here with the prospect that a Milosevic-led reform movement could sweep them from power, the demonstrations, observers say, are less than spontaneous outbursts of public dissatisfaction with the communist system.

The system, however, is in a deepening crisis here, with workers angry over wage freezes and escalating prices as the country struggles to make interest payments on a $21-billion foreign debt.

There has been no single political leader in Yugoslavia since the death in 1980 of President Josip Broz Tito, whose strong leadership held together the country's six republics and two autonomous regions.

Bid for National Leadership

Milosevic seems to be making a bid for national leadership, and some analysts say this will be difficult for a politician who can rely only on the Serbs as a power base. Although the Serbs are the largest nationality in the country, they are for that reason mistrusted by the other republics.

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