Argentina's Largest Labor Union Begins 36-Hour Strike Against Macri’s Austerity

Argentina’s largest labor union, which boasts membership from 20 percent of the country’s workforce, strikes against Macri’s austerity measures, bringing Buenos Aires to a standstill.

Argentina’s largest labor union, the CGT organized a 36-hour strike across the country starting Monday, the second strike Argentina has faced within a month. Previously, on Sept.12, public sector employees and employees from educational institutions walked out of their jobs to protest the austerity measures of the Mauricio Macri government.

RELATED: Macri: We're Telling Everyone About Argentina's Great Future

The strike began with an event at the Pueyrredón Bridge, which will be headed by Barrios de Pie, the Clasista y Combativa Current (CCC), and the Confederation of Workers of the Popular Economy (CTEP), in addition to the CTA Perón (Workers' Central).

Social organizations will then join the mobilization that will end with an act at the capital's Plaza de Mayo. They, together with a fraction of the Autonomous CTA, will cut the entrance to the city of Buenos Aires from Avellaneda, which will bring the city to a standstill.

"The message to the government is to listen to the voice of the people. On Tuesday, there will be a forceful stoppage for the government to change economic policy. In the speeches, they say that we are doing well, but proof that this is not the case is visible to everyone, "said Carlos Acuña, one of the three general secretaries of the CGT.

President Mauricio Macri signed a US$50 billion deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that is supposed to reduce Argentina’s debt. But since the announcement of the deal in June, the Argentine peso has devalued 30 percent against the US dollar.

Macri claimed that austerity policies will help the fiscal condition of the country but workers have experienced 34 percent inflation since last year without any wage increase.

CGT warned that if labor strikes do not sway the government, it can expect growing protests in the next months. If that also doesn’t work, the CGT will call for an indefinite strike to force Macri to negotiate with workers.

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'My Worst Fears Came True': Cristina Fernandez Shows How Police Stole, Damaged Items in Her Home

In a video released on Sunday, Senator Cristina Fernandez shows how investigators damaged and stole items from her Calafate home in an August raid.

Former President Cristina Fernandez released a video Sunday from her Calafate country house condemning last month’s raids made on her three homes in connection to the ‘Bribery Notebooks’ corruption case against Fernandez.

RELATED: Argentine Teacher Tortured, Her Flesh Carved With Threat

"This house three weeks ago was more than raided. (It was) literally taken by the people that (Judge) Bonadio sent here," the current Senator said in the video in front of her Calafate home.

In late August Judge Claudio Bonadio ordered search warrants for the three Fernandez homes, one of which is located in Calafate and another in Buenos Aires, to look for information in connection to alleged payments Fernandez received in exchange for political favors and public works contracts during her presidencies (2007-2015).

In her video, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) denounced the raids saying they were not carried out to "gather information" but were actually "another chapter of humiliation and persecution" against the Citizens Unity coalition leader.

The former president went through her home detailing how for three days officials drilled dozens of holes in the walls of the home, removed stones and took an original painting.

In the video, Fernandez said she tried to mandate protections of her belongings in the house, but those were denied by her fellow Senators who narrowly voted on Aug. 22 to allow the searches to take place.

“My worst fears came true. … What I thought would happen really happened," Senator Fernandez said referring to the items stolen from her house she says have nothing to do with the investigation against her. “They came to find, God knows what, millions of dollars, I do not know," stressed the former president.

"They broke everything, took personal items in the house that have nothing to do with the investigation. In Buenos Aires they did not let my lawyer in, people who were then intoxicated,” added the former head of state referring to the cleaning staff of her Buenos Aires home suffering from “dizziness, itchy throats, and eyes, and difficulty breathing” immediately after the home was raided nearly a month ago.

Fernandez added that the current situation in Argentina "is very disturbing.”

RELATED: Argentina: New Supreme Court President 'Too Close to Executive'

She said the government (under President Mauricio Macri) is “violating rights and constitutional guarantees," and denounced the torture against the Buenos Aires teacher who last week was hooded and tattooed with ‘no more pots’ written in Spanish on her stomach.

"What happened to the teacher in Moreno (Buenos Aires) is very serious because it is a kind of harassment, persecution, and intimidation of against policies that question what is happening in Argentina."

Last Wednesday three male attackers scratched out the words ‘no more pots’ (olla no) on the stomach of teacher Corina De Bonis with a sharp object as she was walking home from work. De Bonis was a part of a group of Buenos Aires teachers who were feeding kids hot meals as the Cambiemos-lead government initiative to drastically cuts education funds, subsidies in social spending trying to plug its deficit.  

The case against Fernandez emerged after Argentine newspaper La Nacion published photocopies of eight notebooks belonging to Oscar Centeno, the driver of Julio de Vido, federal Planning and Public Investment Minister between 2003 and 2015 during the Kitchener and Fernandez administrations.

According to the newspaper, the driver kept records of alleged bags of money business executives gave to the Kirchner administration. CFK has repeatedly denied the claims of corruption.

In the video, Fernandez condemned Macri’s "borrowing policy."

In June the administration took on a US$50 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan hoping it would stem the country’s down-spiraling economy as the peso devalued to 40 to the dollar and inflation rests at 35 percent, after hovering between 25 and 30 percent for a year.

Bloomberg analysts predict inflation to hit 40 percent by year’s end bringing Argentina into a full-blown recession.  The government "has gutted the state in the most sensitive areas and that must change," said Fernandez from Calafate.

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Amid Economic Convulsion, Argentinean Gov't Announces Changes

Buenos Aires, Sep 3 (Prensa Latina) In the midst of an economic convulsion hitting Argentina, with a mega-devaluation of the peso that impacts social life, today eyes focus on the measures to be announced by the Government, together with possible changes in the Cabinet.

Much has been speculated this weekend on the busy ins and outs at the presidential Residence of Olivos, where last Saturday, Mauricio Macri summnoned several officials, among them governor of the capital, Horacio Rodriguez Larreta and that of the province of Buenos Aires, Maria Eugenia Vidal.

Meanwhile, today the minister of the Treasury, Nicolas Duvjonem, summoned a press conference where he will announce a package of fiscal measures, while it is also talked of possible changes in the Executive, among them the post of foreign minister which could be assumed by former Minister of Economy, Alfonso Prat-Gay, according to local news media. Dujovne will be in charge of announcing the measures that, according to speculations could include the application of retentions to exports, which already generates strong rejection from agricultural workers and to boost even more asdjustments to the State's structure.

The minister will also go tomorrow to the United States to meet director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, looking to fix an advancement of the loan extended by the IMF last June for 50 billion dollars.

Also over the weekend circulated news about the possible closing of 12 ministries, among which those of Science and Technology, Culture, Energy and Agribusiness, which would pass to be secretaries of State, together with changes in half of Macri's cabinet.

In the country tension is everywhere, above all among many citizens affected by the drastic rise of the U.S. currency on Thursday, from 34 to 42 pesos, who hurried to withdraw their savings in that currency with the ghost hovering of the so-called 'corralito' that exploded into a great crisis in 2001 which many still remember. In a race against time and the 2019 budget debate around the corner, the Government looks to calm down the situation and will try by all means to reduce the fiscal déficit and prices, while looks point again to what happens at the banks and financial entities this Monday that is quite agitated.

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'Education is a Right!': Argentine Students, Teachers Mobilize En Masse Against Education Funding Cuts

Hundreds of thousands marched in Buenos Aires in defense of public education and to demand better salaries and increased budgets.

Hundreds of thousands of Argentines marched in downtown Buenos Aires  Thursday in defense of the public education system and to reject cuts announced by President Mauricio Macri’s administration amid the country's ongoing International Monetary Fund-backed austerity measures.

RELATED: Argentina: Professors, Teachers Protest Against Budget Cuts

The march took place during the fourth week of a strike by workers at national universities. In the days leading up to the march professors and students held classes in public spaces and organized occupations of universities across the country to shed light on the current crisis in the Argentine higher education system.  

“We didn’t come only for the salaries, but also for the funding of public and free university education,” Monica Pipino, a professor at the National University of Rosario, explained in an attempt to counter the narrative advanced by government officials, who claim the conflict is based exclusively on wages.

Last month, Macri’s government announced a US$99 million (over $3 billion Argentine Pesos) in cuts to the public education sector and a halt in infrastructure projects. This announcement aggravated the demand for salary increases that respond to the increasing rate of inflation.

@fedelopezclaro Marcha por la educación Universitaria
Foto @fedelopezclaro

 

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Evo Morales Rejects Militarization of Bolivia-Argentina Border

On August 17, the Argentine Government set up a military base in the border city of La Quiaca, near Bolivia, framed in the plan for a reform of the Armed Forces.

On Thursday, Bolivian President Evo Morales rejected the militarization of the Bolivia-Argentina border that President Mauricio Macri has ordered. The Bolivian president said that the Argentine Government seeks to intimidate and frighten the Bolivian people, but noted that this action does not scare them.

RELATED: Bolivia's Evo Morales: 'The US Is An Interventionist State'

Morales said that Argentina's move aims to rattle Bolivia. "They will try to scare us; We are not going to be scared, we are a united people, with social forces. They will try to intimidate us, they will not be able to," he said during a Public event in Chuquisaca, Bolivia.

The president said that he does "not agree with what Argentina did these last days, militarize the border with Bolivia, in La Quiaca, in front of Villazon." 

On August 17, the Argentine Government set up a military base in the border city of La Quiaca, near Bolivia, framed in the plan for a reform of the Armed Forces which is promoted by the country's executive to carry out internal security tasks. However, the Argentine Ambassador to Bolivia, Normando Alvarez, confirmed that an Argentinian military base will be installed in Abra Pampa, Jujuy Province, 70 kilometers away from the border with Bolivia.

Social and other media reports claimed that the United States had planned to open a military base in Argentina, near the border with Bolivia, in order to fight against drug-trafficking and terrorism. But, the Argentinian Government has denied the allegation.

"No, they are inventions; why do we need the United States military if we have professional military forces that can calmly develop their task," the ambassador remarked.

"NATO and U.S. military bases are synonymous with theft, synonymous with looting, confrontation, war. We have profound differences with the capitalist system, with North American imperialism, but for that we need unity. If we are united nothing is going to stop our process of change," Bolivian President Morales commented.

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70% of Argentine Pensioners Living in Poverty

The minimum rate for pensions in Argentina only covers 40 percent of pensioners' basic neeeds.

Argentina’s ombudsman for senior citizens, Eugenio Semino, said Monday that seven out of every ten senior citizens with a pension are unable to cover their basic expenses. With the situation worsening according to Semino since the rate of pension increases currently lag behind rising inflation.

RELATED: Argentine State Company Lays Off Workers, Looming Privatization

According to their estimates, the increases in the prices of food, medicine, and home utilities place the value of the market basket for senior citizens or pensioners at 21,127 pesos (roughly US$707). However, in September the lowest pension will go from 8,096 to 8,637 pesos (US$290), which covers less than 40 percent of those expenses.

The office of the ombudsman for senior citizens has calculated the pensioners' market basket every six months, for ten years. “When there are high inflationary peaks, like in 2014 and 2016, we do an extra calculation in the month of August. This calculation is made for the pensioners who live in urban centers,” Semino explained in an interview with a local TV station.

The situation is even worse for those who receive non-contributive pensions and the universal pension for senior citizens, who receive around 6,000 pesos (US$200) a month.

“In Argentina, no one can live with 8,000 pesos, and we are talking of a universe of seven million retired people,” ombudsman Eugenio Semino said.

Pensioners have demanded the national government to take urgent actions against the social effects of the country’s economic crisis, which is a consequence of rising inflation and currency devaluation.

In the last six months, the price of medicine that is not provided by social works has increased by 30 percent.  

According to Pagina 12, “social security authorities have argued that pensions recovered their purchasing power when government reforms went into effect. However, data from the Indec (Argentina's national statistics institute) show that the purchasing power of the lowest pensions has an accumulated regression of 8.58 percent.”

“Minimum pensions must be in accordance with the price of the basic market basket. This should be guaranteed by using part of the flow of the Sustainability Guarantee Fund,” Semino argued.

Analysts expect the situation to worsen due to rising inflation and loss of income and employment, and the austerity measures agreed on by Mauricio Macri's government and the International Monetary Fund, which includes the gradual dismantling of the Sustainability Guarantee Fund.

“The fund, instead of being available to multilateral financial institutions, should be in the only safe place: the pockets of pensioners, where it generates taxes, jobs and internal consumption,” Semino told Pagina 12.

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Transportation Price Increases in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires, Aug 15 (Prensa Latina) The rise in bus and train price in Buenos Aires announced by the government began to prevail today in the first of three monthly increases.

While the cost of the so-called buses increased one peso more and accumulates at least 11 pesos, the trains also increases in several branches that connect with the so-called Buenos Aires metropolitan region such as Miter, San Martin, Belgrano Sur and Urquiza.

According to several local media reports, since the transportation rate began in February and until October, when it will be completed, this service will have accumulated price rise of 116 percent for buses and up to 175 percent for trains.

With the new rise since early today, the bus ticket that cost between 10 and 10.75 pesos (about 35 cents) will now reach 11.75 (about 40 cents).

The Ministry of Transportation does not rule out further increases and justified the decision to increase costs boosted by devaluation, fuel prices and the need to reduce public spending.

Two increases of more than one peso per month will come into effect in September and October.

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UN Regrets Argentine Senate's Rejection to Legalize Abortion

UN human rights experts lamented today that the Argentine Senate rejected a bill to decriminalize abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

A group of special rapporteurs based in Geneva described the decision as a 'missed opportunity' to promote the rights of women in Argentina.

'The Senate vote has not only failed women in Argentina, but also an entire region that generally has very restrictive laws regarding the termination of pregnancy,' they said in a statement.

In this way, they have protected the continuation of an archaic legacy based on a religious doctrine that incorporates harmful stereotypes about the roles of women in the family and in society, which are intrinsically discriminatory and oppressive.

The Argentine Senate did not take advantage of this moment to demonstrate the country's commitment to eliminate discrimination against women in its legislation and promote their sexual and reproductive rights.

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