Unions Bring Argentina to a Standstill As Macri Meets Bankers
Above photo: Worker’s fourth national strike brought Argentina to a standstill. | Photo: Reuters
Unions have demanded an end to IMF-backed austerity measures and have vowed to continue protests until there is a change in policy or government.
On Tuesday at midnight, Argentina’s General Confederation of Workers (CGT) began its 24-hour general strike against Mauricio Macri’s austerity policies. On Monday, the Argentine Workers’ Central Union (CTA) launched a parallel 36-hour strike with the support of several smaller unions, neighborhood associations, and social movements to reject the government’s social and economic policies.
Macri has faced massive protests and four national strikes. In June, shortly after the government agreed on a US$50 billion emergency loan with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the CGT and several other unions paralyzed the country to reject the agreement and the austerity measures that accompany IMF loans.
The strike organizers succeeded, with images showing a desolate Buenos Aires and paralyzed country. On Tuesday morning the streets were empty, train and bus stations were closed and most flights to and from Ezeiza and Jorge Newbery airports were canceled. Public schools have suspended classes, public hospitals are only receiving medical emergencies, and banks will not open their doors.
“Either this economic model falls or these people leave the government,” Pablo Micheli of the CTA said Monday.
Campesinos are also participating in the protests. “The Campesinos struggle against the neoliberal austerity of the Cembiemos government. #GetOutIMF #GeneralStrike #EnoughHunger #PopularAgrarianReform #WorkersUnity,” the Union of Landless Rural Workers – Via Campesina tweeted.
Las campesinas y Campesinos en lucha contra el ajuste Neoliberal del Gobierno de Cambiemos. #FUERAFMI #ParoGeneral #BastaDeHambre #ReformaAgrariaPopular #UnidadDeLxsTrabajadorxs pic.twitter.com/yGhEgyZZS2
— UST – MNCI Via Campesina (@USTierra) September 25, 2018
Argentina’s workers are demanding collective bargaining that corresponds to the loss of purchasing power due to increasing inflation, the suspension of layoffs, and the declaration of a food emergency to counter the effects of the economic crisis.
They also want to stop the approval process for the 2019 national budget, which according to them would deepen social austerity.
We need “a change in course,” Hector Daer, a member of the CGT’s Directive Council argued, saying the government needs to correct its current economic policy. Macri “must understand that he doesn’t only need to be accountable and bear good news for financial speculators and IMF authorities,” Daer told local media outlet Pagina 12.
On Monday, CTA’s Hugo Yasky warned they will “remain in the street until they change the economic policy, layoffs stop, and our rights are recognized.” He also criticized president Macri, saying “his knees must be numb, we are standing while he kneels before the IMF.”
In New York, Monday, Macri confirmed he will seek re-election next year. The announcement was made during a lunch meeting with representatives of Citi Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JP Morgan, and UBS. Macri also met Donald Trump during a cocktail he threw for allies who attended the United Nations General Assembly, he dined with IMF chief Christine Lagarde.
The Argentine government is in the middle of negotiations with the IMF for an extension of the US$50 billion emergency loan despite the fact that the president is being prosecuted over the IMF deal.
As Argentines protest Macri’s austerity measures, the Washinton D.C.-based think-tank Atlantic Council celebrated Macri and awarded him with the Global Citizen award for his “tireless dedication” and “commitment to economic reform and revitalization and renovation to relations with international partners.”
As part of Macri’s participation in the U.N. General Assembly, he is scheduled to hold a meeting with recently-elected Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel, and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
On Tuesday, the president of Argentina’s Central Bank, Luis Caputo, resigned from his post. He is the person to resign from post during Macri’s presidency.