Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Subscribers Section User ID Password
Crisis deepens
Pablo Waisberg
Send a comment Print this page

Grassroots leaders take a harder line against the government.

Argentina´s economic and social crisis has become increasingly complex, with almost constant street protests punctuating the government´s efforts to bring the country´s political leadership into line.

A protest June 26 on roads leading to the capital, staged by unemployed Argentines demanding compensation, food and medicines for public hospitals, left two people dead, 90 injured and 60 detained.

Since December, when then-President Fernando de la Rúa (1999-2001) of the social democrat Radical Civic Union (UCR) was forced to step down, there have been demonstrations throughout the country, cutting across class boundaries.

Protesters´ demands range from calls for the state to provide food and medicines, increase welfare programs and create jobs, to demands for wage increases, scholarships, reactivation of the economy and a lifting of the freeze on bank deposits that was put in place by de la Rúa and continued by President Eduardo Duhalde (LP, Jan. 14, 2002).

"This degree of protest could pave the way for a new regime in Argentina, which may come through elections, but which may not depend entirely on votes. In any case, it will be part of a more widespread state of protest that will establish common ground for a refounding of Argentina," said economist Claudio Lozano, a leader of the Argentine Workers Central (CTA).

Lozano warned, however, that "people may appeal to an increasing tendency toward authoritarianism to keep the system intact, because by the end of the year, 23 million people are expected to be living below the poverty line." Argentina´s total population is 35 million.

On May 29, the CTA, the Classist and Combative Movement (CCC), agricultural organizations and associations of small and medium-size business owners staged a national strike consisting of more than 600 roadblocks, demonstrations and events known as escraches, in which politicians and government officials are publicly repudiated.

The CTA and CCC have been the largest thorn in the government´s side. Although they have fewer members than the other two main workers´ groups, the "official" General Labor Confederation (CGT) and the "dissident" CGT, both of which are affiliated with the Justicialist Party (PJ) of Duhalde and former President Carlos Menem (1989-99), they have a greater ability to get their members into the streets.

"Everyone turned out to demonstrate, not just those in the CTA or CCC. In many provinces, merchants and workers from the ´dissident´ CGT joined them, because they wanted to protest against the government but hadn´t been able to do so in protests called by the CGT" on May 22, CCC founder Carlos Santillán said.

The "dissident" CGT limited its strike to a demonstration in the Plaza de Mayo that drew about 8,000 people. The union´s leader, trucker and Duhalde ally Hugo Moyano, had postponed a strike originally called for May 14 because of "bad weather," saying that many members´ houses had been flooded by heavy rains.

Although May 14 dawned sunny, the decision to postpone it for eight days had already been announced. Both Moyano´s excuse and the lackluster turnout in Buenos Aires failed to convince his critics.

"Moyano engaged in negotiations that distanced him from the people. He fought against the government at the end of the Menem administration and also against de la Rúa, but this time he negotiated, and people won´t forgive him," Santillán said.

The national strike called by the CTA was preceded by a week of roadblocks throughout the country in which unemployed Argentines played a key role.

Most of the blockades were one-day affairs, but in the northern region of Jujuy and in La Matanza in metropolitan Buenos Aires they lasted five days. In La Matanza, where the CTA´s Land and Housing Federation and the CCC mobilized 7,000 people to block roads, the provincial PJ government finally agreed to meet the protesters´ demands for food, medicines, public welfare plans and a social tax on public services.

The CTA and CCC were founded during Menem´s first term (1989-95), when Duhalde was vice president. The CTA was formed by PJ members who had become disenchanted with Menem and center-left union members, mainly teachers, judicial and other government employees, and organizations of merchants. The CCC mainly consists of government employees, rural workers, teachers and metallurgical industry employees.

Both labor groups have also organized people who have lost their jobs. Argentina´s official unemployment rate is about 25 percent, although it has reached 40 percent in some provinces (LP, May 20, 2002).

The "official" CGT is the labor organization with the strongest political and economic structure, but its prestige has been eroded by the tendency of its members - often called "fat cats" - to be politically sedentary and overly willing to negotiate.

The "dissident" CGT, made up of judiciary workers, truckers and other transportation workers, received its nickname because of its policy of lukewarm confrontation with the Menem government.

"We´ve stopped believing in the political class. Since the dictatorship (1976-1983), power has been distributed among the UCR, PJ and some provincial movements. But none of them has been able to solve the country´s problems," Santillán said.

"The situation is out of control because half the population is sunk in poverty for the first time in Argentina´s history," said sociologist Atilio Borón, executive secretary of the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO). "People don´t want more violence, but they also don´t want to be destroyed."

Santillán added, "They want people to give more, but there´s nothing left to give. The violence is provoked by the government, which sends in the troops whenever there´s a demonstration. It´s a life or death situation, and people don´t want to stay home and die - they´re going to keep protesting."


Unions join forces against gov
Related News
Latinamerica Press / Noticias Aliadas
Reproduction of our information is permitted if the source is cited.
Contact us: (511) 460 5517
Address: Comandante Gustavo Jiménez 480, Magdalena del Mar, Lima 17, Perú

Internal Mail:
This website is updated every week.