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sábado, junio 14, 2008

Argentina Breaks Up Farmers' Protest, Strikes Continue

Police Break Up Today's Protest

This past Spring (Fall in Argentina) Argentina's president, Cristina Kirchner, decided to raise export taxes on grains. This has led to more than three months of bitter protests by farmers, essayed here, and to shortages of meat, oil, flour and fuel. Kirchner has refused to repeal the tax increase, which she claims will cut inflation and increase food supplies to the poor. Farmers have responded by cutting off transportation routes in an effort to strike back at the government. And the government has said in response to blockades of roads by farmers that it would guarantee free travel on all roads in Argentina.

As a result, food that normally ships to Europe and Asia has not made it to port, and hundreds of thousands of gallons of spoiled milk have been dumped on rural routes, and there are huge shortages of food in the capital city and elsewhere. In other words, after more than 3 months, there remains a complete deadlock.

Please join me in Gualeguaychu.

Today, according to AP there was an escalation: the farmers' protests were forcefully broken up and 20 farmers were arrested:
Argentine authorities broke up a farmers' highway blockade Saturday, briefly arresting about 20 protesters including a prominent leader of a months' long protest against an increase in grain export taxes.

The arrests near the city of Gualeguaychu and Argentina's river border with Uruguay were broadcast on national television and threatened to inflame a tense standoff between farmers and President Cristina Fernandez's government. /snip

"The government is not going to pacify us like this — on the contrary. The protest will continue," de Angeli told Cronica TV after his release.
CNN and the photo at the top of this essay provide some details of today's confrontation:
Military police scuffled with farmers as they tried to remove them from a road that protesters had blocked with their trucks.

Protesters responded by throwing rocks at police and burning large truck tires in the road. Thick clouds of black smoke could be seen for miles.

Scenes of baton-wielding police in riot gear carrying struggling protesters away in trucks were broadcast live around the country.
The farmers are not alone in their protest. The middle class, according to CNN, supports the farmers:
Thousands took to the streets in Buenos Aires on Saturday to bang pots and pans in support of the striking farmers. They also cut off traffic at busy city intersections, waving Argentine flags, singing the national anthem and asking for dialog between the government and farmers.
And so, too, the transportation unions support the protest:
Roberto Fernandez, chief of the Tramway and Motorized Drivers Union, announced a "total halt of activities" because of the lack of an agreement between the government and farmers who have cut dozens of routes nationwide, preventing buses from passing.

Cargo truckers have been idled by three separate farm strikes and have vowed to protest indefinitely themselves until the strikes are resolved.
According to IHT,the truckers voted Thursday to protest indefinitely and to block about 200 roadways until the strike ends.

Neither side seems willing to yield in any way. There are presently no talks. And none are scheduled. The results? In addition to shortages throughout in Argentina, the protests are driving up food prices globally. Argentina is the world's third largest exporter of soy and corn, most of its exports go to China and the EU.

Corn and soy are in many processed foods, foods people in the developed world eat. If the cost of these items increase, so too will the cost of food. It's unclear whether you can expect to feel the effects of the deadlock at your local supermarket in the near future. It's more likely that the consequences will first be felt in Argentina and then in the EU. But in the global economy, the ripples of the protest will eventually be felt in the US as well.

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