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Thursday, 27 February 2020

Arrests, planes grounded in Argentina general strike

AFP , Thursday 6 Apr 2017
Protestors clash with Argentine gendarmerie as they block a road during a 24-hour national strike in Buenos Aires, Argentina, April 6, 2017 (Photo: Reuters)
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Airlines grounded international flights and police scuffled with protesters Thursday as workers staged a general strike in protest at job and pay cuts.

Conservative President Mauricio Macri condemned the call to strike in Latin America's third-biggest economy, where he faces midterm legislative elections in October.

The strike shut down public transport and demonstrators blocked streets as Macri prepared to host an economic forum scheduled the same day.

The National Civil Aviation Administration said the strike disrupted 800 flights, affecting some 60,000 passengers.

Judicial sources said five people were injured and 10 arrested when police and demonstrators clashed during a rally near one of the roads into Buenos Aires.

Unions and officials said participation in the strike was high, in a country where official data show a third of the people are living in poverty.

"The stoppage is a success. It has demonstrated across the country the discontent with the government's economic policies," said Carlos Acuna, leader of the General Labor Confederation, a major union.

Labor Minister Jorge Triaca said there was "a high level of participation" in the stoppage.

But he echoed Macri's criticism of the unions, accusing them of using the strike to apply political pressure ahead of October elections.

Security Minister Patricia Bullrich told reporters that authorities would move demonstrators who block traffic.

The strike coincides with the World Economic Forum on Latin America, which draws business and political leaders to Buenos Aires.

Civil groups planned a major protest march from around 1400 GMT toward the Hilton hotel where the forum was being held.

Macri took office in December 2015 vowing to rescue the flagging economy, open up trade and draw investment after 12 years of leftist government.

The economy remains bogged down, having shrunk 2.3 percent last year, though it ticked upwards in January.

Ordinary Argentines are suffering: Nearly a third of them are living in poverty, according to separate studies by the government and the Catholic University.

Inflation is in the double digits, according to various estimates, while jobs and salaries have been cut in Macri's efforts to stabilize public finances.

Macri complained during a speech Wednesday that the strike "does not help workers at all," accusing unions of "mafia-like behavior."

The wealthy businessman-turned-president has been hit in recent months by allegations of financial conflicts of interest which the courts are investigating.

His vice president, Gabriela Michetti, said the strike was "an extreme measure which will cost the country a billion dollars."

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