The violent looting and disturbances that began last week in the central city of Cordoba are spreading now across a large part of the country and have left eight people dead amid wildcat strikes by police demanding pay hikes.

Numerous businesses in Resistencia, the capital of the northern province of Chaco, began the day with their windows broken, shelves empty and floors covered with discarded merchandise after looting in which a police officer and a civilian died, Gov. Juan Carlos Bacileff Ivanoff said.

The situation was repeated in the northern provinces of Tucuman, where two other fatalities were reported, and in Jujuy, where one person died.

The peak of the looting and the police conflict have tarnished the 30th anniversary of the restoration of democracy, which is being celebrated on Tuesday, and opposition leaders asked that public festivities planned for late in the day be postponed.

Lawmaker Ricardo Alfonsin, whose late father, Raul Alfonsin, was the first democratic president after the end of the 1976-1983 military regime, proposed "given the seriousness of the situation" leaving the commemorative acts "for a better occasion."

Police in up to 17 provinces have refused to leave their barracks in recent days, encouraged by the example of their colleagues in Cordoba province, whose strike won them a pay raise.

The governments of several other provinces, including Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Entre Rios, Neuquen and Chubut, also agreed to increase cops' pay by up to 50 percent to get them back on the job.

"The Argentine people want peace and harmony," Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich said Tuesday, insisting that the police strikes exceed "any foreseeable limit and deserve the repudiation of everyone."

Argentina's justice minister, Julio Alak, suggested earlier this week that striking police have colluded with looters in some instances. EFE