Argentine farmer groups and the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner held six hours of talks on March 28 aimed at ending a 16-day-old producers’ strike that had restricted food supplies in major cities. Strike supporters lifted some of the blockades they had maintained on highways throughout the country, but more radical sectors said this was only a 48-hour truce and stayed at their positions at highway entrances.
The producers were protesting Fernandez de Kirchner’s increase in taxes on soy, a major export crop for Argentina. The president, from the left wing of the populist Justicialist Party (PJ, Peronist), insisted that she would not give in to “extortion” from the producers. She noted that many of the strikers were very wealthy and contrasted their “protests of abundance” with the “protests of poverty” in the early 2000s when “thousands of Argentines [were] blocking streets and highways because they needed work,” along with middle-class demonstrators who had lost their savings in the 2001 financial crisis. According to Argentine journalist Stella Calloni, the strike is led by the far-right Argentine Rural Society. Strike supporters held a protest in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires the evening of March 25. Stella says most of the 5,000 protesters beating on pots and pans were from the capital’s richest neighborhoods. Some activists referred to the strike support actions as “fashion protests.”
The government has been backed by many activist groups, including the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Federation of Argentine Workers (CTA). A Maoist and a Trotskyist group were backing the strike, although not its right-wing leadership. Many groups, including the Trotskyist Movement Toward Socialism (MST), rejected both the government and the strike. The National Picketer (“Piquetero”) Bloc said: “[W]e working people and broad sectors of the middle class find ourselves like the salami in the sandwich in this conflict of the ‘country’ against the government… No one cares about the situation of the people.” (La Jornada, Mexico, March 26, 27, 28, 29 from correspondent; Prensa de Frente, Argentina, March 28)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 30