By Marcel Gascon
Bucharest, Jun 12 (efe-epa).- On 14 June 1990, less than six months after Romania had toppled communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, the country hit international news again but this time for much less positive reasons.
Thousands of miners armed with sticks and hoses, which they used as whips, took control of Bucharest to extinguish opposition to the authoritarian government of president Ion Iliescu.
“They were used by the power as a Praetorian Guard,” says Petre Mihai Bacanu, former editor of Romania newspaper Libera, one of the key figures in the democratic movement that confronted Iliescu during Romania’s turbulent transition from communism to democracy.
Bacanu describes how more than 10,000 miners from all over the country to the capital city came to the call of power to “neutralize”, according to the language of the government, an opposition movement Iliescu described as “vandalism” and “fascist”.
His account is supported by numerous documents and images of the time.
“In a speech that can be seen on YouTube, Iliescu himself welcomed them and asked a group of miners to ‘reoccupy’ University Square, where the opposition had demonstrated for weeks,” Viorel Ene, who was brutally beaten during the rampage and runs a support group for victims, tells Efe.
Six people died in episodes of repression that occurred between 13 and 15 June, according to a disputed official count.
Hundreds of Bucharesters were injured, some seriously, and thousands of people left the country after the incident.
The events that led to the so-called Mineriad of June 1990 have their origin in 22 April of that year, when the incipient Romanian civil society took to the streets to protest against Iliescu’s plans to stand for election.