Thursday, April 06, 2017

In solidarity with fellow workers (2)

Buenos Aires came to a standstill during a 24-hour general strike. Workers feel that the free market policies of President Macri have exacerbated income inequality. President Mauricio Macri has been accused of being aggressively pro-business at the expense of the nation's poor. The strike came at the same time that President Macri was hosting hundreds of foreign dignitaries and would-be investors from abroad at the World Economic Forum. His campaign promises of major foreign investment have yet to materialize.

At midnight Thursday, bankers, factory employees, airport workers, teachers, truck and bus drivers, and customs agents who manage the country's incredibly lucrative grain exports all walked off the job for 24 hours. Many businesses in the capital Buenos Aires remained closed and usually busy streets were largely empty as protestors poured into the Pan-American highway leading north out of the capital. Police used water cannons and tear gas on demonstrators who refused to stop blocking the highway.The airport was effectively shut down. 

Julio Piumato, who represents CGT, an umbrella group for the unions, explained,  "Wealth is being concentrated in the hands of a few at the same rate that poverty is growing," he said. "Urgent measures are needed to create employment. One out of every three Argentines is poor."

Since taking office in December 2015, Macri has significantly cut government spending including gas subsidies that helped the poor with their heating bills. He has also eliminated a number of trade regulations as part of his ardent support of free market policies. Protestors were also demanding better wages as they have not been raised to keep up with Argentina's runaway inflation, a result of more than a decade of left-wing populist rule. The inflation rate was a staggering 40 percent annually in 2016 and is looking to rise another 20 percent this year. Real wages have shrunk by 6 to 8 percent this past year because inflation is so high. Wage negotiations are tough, the fight over limited wealth is growing.

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