Work stoppage in Argentina

Tens of thousands of people marched throughout Argentina on April 9 as part of a general strike called to protest the death of a teacher, Carlos Fuentealba, who died on April 5 in the southwestern province of Neuquen after being shot at close range with a tear gas canister. The country’s teachers observed a total one-day strike called by the Confederation of Education Workers of the Argentina Republic (CTERA). The protests were backed by the two main labor confederations: the leftist Federation of Argentine Workers (CTA) and the General Confederation of Workers (CGT), associated with the Justicialist Party (PJ, Peronist). The CGT limited its general strike to one hour, from noon to 1 PM.

Some 30,000 people marched in the city of Neuquen, where teachers were maintaining encampments around the provincial government offices. Schools and universities were closed for the day. Public transportation was shut down for one hour, since the workers are affiliated with the CGT, but the metro workers union gave out free passes in the morning so that people could get to the demonstration in the middle of the day. The teachers said they would continue the encampments until they win their salary demands and provincial governor Jorge Sobisch resigns, along with the justice and education ministers.

In Buenos Aires thousands marched from the Obelisk to Neuquen’s office in the capital. The march, headed by the CTERA, the CTA and other unions, included members of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and leaders of other human rights and social organizations. More radical groups marched separately to protest left-populist president Nestor Kirchner, although he has strongly condemned Fuentealba’s killing and Gov. Sobisch.

There were also protests in Rosario, Cordoba, Mendoza, Jujuy and Mar del Plata, with a total of about 180 events taking place around the country under the slogan: “enough of the repression of social demands, and no to impunity.” About 8,000 people marched in the northwestern province of Salta, where teachers have been on strike for five weeks. A small group separated from the main march and tried to enter the legislature. After being driven back with tear gas, the protesters blocked the provincial government offices.

Carlos Fuentealba, a high school chemistry teacher, died of a cerebral lesion one day after a Neuquen police agent shot a tear-gas canister at him during a teachers’ protest on Apr. 4. The agent had been barred from police activity because of a prior violent incident, but was operating with the police special forces that day despite the order. Gov. Sobisch is a member of the Neuquen Popular Movement, a local party, and was elected as part of a rightwing alliance. (La Jornada, Mexico, April 10 from correspondent; El Diario-La Prensa, NYC, April 9 from AP)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 15

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