By Brendan Oliver Bergh
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BEUNOS AIRES, Argentina – Work stoppage in Argentina has slowed the already ailing country to a standstill. A general strike organized by the two biggest trade unions brought the Latin American countries economic grain exports to a halt as demonstrators protested Argentina’s economic policies. The ‘General Confederation of Labor of the Argentine Republic’ (CGT) and ‘ Argentine Workers’ Central Union’ (CTA) organized a general strike that shut down public transportation and forced many businesses to shut down.
The ailing country has been in economic trouble for some time. In 2001 the country defaulted on a number of loan repayments, and according to the World Bank, Argentina’s economic growth has slowed from 9% in 2011 to just 2.2% in 2012.
Beyond protesting the increase in violence and crime the trade unions are demanding a decrease in income taxes to combat the high inflation they are now feeling at home. Officially, Argentina has an annual inflation of 10%, but some economists estimate that number to be closer to 24%.
Farming unions have joined the protests, led by Hugo Moyao, who is demanding lower taxes for workers hit hard by the un-tethered inflation. Mayano has vowed to keep pressing the demands of the labor unions, telling reporters “The silence of the streets, the absence of people in the streets, in the shops, in the businesses – this is the voice that the government must hear.” The farming industry has been hit by unprecedented 35% export tax on Argentina’s most important export, soybean and soybean oil. Soybean oil is one of the main components to bio-fuel.
While President Cristina Fernandez has refused to back down, calling the strikers “extortionists” her opposition has latched on to the civil discourse. Many have hailed as the beginning of the end. Citing that she may have lost the streets, and despite decreasing the voting age from 18 to 16, have stated that they will do everything they can to stop her from seeking re-election.
The general strike has not been the completely non-violent demonstration that the trade unionists claim. Burned tires block roads, and protesters have used the chaos to vandalize businesses that stayed open during the work stoppages. A block away from the presidential palace, tourist attractions were forced to close after opportunists vandalized them.
While leaders of the strike are hopeful that the general strike will strengthen their position, President Fernandez has refused to give ground, citing the need to keep taxes were they are to payback the growing debt she inherited from previous administrations.
For further information, please see:
Los Andes – The Unions Expect Cristina Replies – 22 November 2012
Terra – Cristina Fernandez: “Impossible” to Stop Paying Debts Argentina – 22 November 2012
BBC – Argentina: Strike Paralyses Buenos Aires And Other Cities – 20 November 2012
Reuters – Argentina’s Fernandez Faces Her First General Strike – 20 November 2012