Argentine Unions Paralyze Transport Voicing Salary Demands

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Argentine labor unions opposed to the government halted transport and blocked roads as part of a 24-hour strike on Tuesday in support of demands for higher wages and lower taxes.

The strike affected almost all bus, train and subway services in the capital and across much of the country while pickets blocked some of the main entrances to the capital Buenos Aires, La Nacion reported. Hospitals are only running emergency services in some provinces, the Buenos Aires-based daily said. All domestic flights were canceled while many international flights were also affected, according to airport operator Aeropuertos Argentina 2000.

The strike is the fifth such protest President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her late husband and predecessor have faced in 12 years in power. Opposition unions headed by Hugo Moyano’s truckers’ syndicate are angered by what they say are government attempts to cap salary increases at 27 percent.

“How do these unions claim to defend workers when they’re keeping the majority of people from going to their jobs?” Cabinet Chief Anibal Fernandez told reporters. “If there’s no willingness to sit down and they try to set conditions through extortion clearly the situation isn’t good.”

Workers blocked part of the main intersection of Buenos Aires by putting up tents on Corrientes avenue near the Obelisk in downtown and plan to march to the Labor Ministry.

While the government says inflation was 15.8 percent in April, a report distributed by opposition lawmakers based on estimates by private economists found prices rose 29 percent from a year earlier.

In the last such strike in March, in which unions demanded that the government raise the tax threshold, train and bus services in the capital were disrupted and national and international flights were grounded for 24 hours.

Fernandez, the cabinet chief, said the government has already reached wage agreements with 2.5 million workers and that this strike is politically motivated.

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