Friday, April 11, 2014

Argentina: Unions Opposed to President Fernández Brings Country to a Standstill with General Strike

According to The Latin American Tribune, unions opposed to President Cristina Fernández de Kircher's government brought the country to a standstill with a general strike on Thursday (April 10), while the administration said militants were preventing people from going to work.

The strike against “austerity, inflation and crime” was most disruptive in greater Buenos Aires because of the participation of the transport sector and protesters’ blocking of main roads into the capital.

Strike organizers crippled main urban centers with the large-scale labor action, referring to the 40 roadblocks set up nationwide, Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich told a press conference.

“There are workers who are not in agreement (with the strike) and they are unable to get to their workplace,” Capitanich said.

COMMENT: Since dawn, protesters blockaded roads leading into the capital, most notably the Pan American Highway, where clashes between police and demonstrators left two injured and one arrested.

Commuter rail and bus service was paralyzed.

“The strike has been a success from the outset,” labor leader and congressman Nestor Pitrola said, adding that “a new stage has been launched” in the unions’ struggle, “which began with the teachers strike and continues with this strike that seeks to define where the country is heading.”

The CGT labor federation’s dissident faction, headed by Hugo Moyano, a one-time close Fernández ally who is now a staunch government adversary, organized the general strike, the second that Fernández has faced since taking office in December 2007.

The unions are demanding salary hikes of more than 40% and an increase in the level of earnings exempt from income tax, which now stands at 15,000 pesos ($1,875).

One by-product of Fernández' government from the outset of her administration is violent crime, which is the one issue that most Argentines complain about regardless of where they stand politically.

Organizers of the strike did not place a cost of  the impact the strike had on diminished productivity, but it had to be considerable and an embarrassment to the left-leaning government. 

Crime is a serious problem nationwide.  Street and residential crime appear to be increasingly common, more violent than in the past, with the use of firearms often being used. In January 2010, local press reported that over 1.2 million firearms are registered to nearly 700,000 users with almost 36,000 permits issued in 2010 (down from the 55,000 issued a decade earlier). 

The office within the government that regulates firearms, Registro Nacional de Armas (RENAR), stated that since its creation in 2007 the "Money for Weapons" program recovered a total of 141,000 weapons and more than 1,098.000 rounds of ammunition.

One of the cornerstones of the Peronist government has always been  the "cash for guns" program.