Strike Shuts Down Buenos Aires Amid Argentina's Economic Woes

 @crvillarreal
on November 21 2012 4:01 PM
argentina
Demonstrators block General Paz highway during a protest, in Buenos Aires. REUTERS

A general strike paralyzed Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires, bringing public transportation to a halt while shutting down airlines and ports Wednesday.

The 24-hour strike was called by workers who operate the country’s buses, trains, and airports. It is the latest demonstration against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner amid widespread protests against soaring inflation, rising crime, and repeated government corruption scandals.

Some demonstrators blocked roads with burning tires, while others rallied in the Plaza de Mayo and in front of the presidential palace. The city’s commercial districts were quiet as public transit shut down and many businesses closed for the day.

"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," Reuters quoted Hugo Moyano, a representative of the CGT labor union, as saying.

In addition to general dissatisfaction with the economy and government performance, the unions have demanded lower income taxes and a higher minimum wage.

Fernandez downplayed the unions’ claims of public support, saying that the demonstrators had intimidated people in the capital, but that other parts of the country were not as greatly affected.

"Today wasn't a strike. It wasn't even a picket. This was about strong-arm tactics and threats," Fernandez said, according to Reuters.

"Luckily, the strike was restricted to a few areas in the capital, because people in the rest of the country went to work as usual," she added, according to BBC News.

Regardless, public discontent is mounting as inflation hits 25 percent, although the government has reported it at around 10 percent, and economic growth has slowed to 2.2 percent this year from 9 percent last year.

"This general strike raises the possibility that she [Fernandez] is losing control of the street, and it puts the unions that are allied with her in an uncomfortable position," Ignacio Labaqui, an economic analyst at Medley Global Advisors, told Reuters.

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