Photo via Cronica

The leadership of the CGT umbrella union headed yesterday a massive march to protest against the Mauricio Macri administration’s economic policies, but ended up becoming subjects of disapproval themselves after they didn’t set up a specific date for a general strike, as they were expected to.

Their speeches were almost drowned out by booing, jeering and chanting, and things became more violent as it began to be clear that a strike wouldn’t be announced. Among the shouts were: “Set the date of the strike!” and the slightly more direct, “Set the date, you sons of bitches!”

Upset union members taking down the lectern Photo via Clarín
Upset union members taking down the lectern
Photo via Clarín

The three CGT triumvirate leaders in particular came under fire. After the first two, Carlos Acuña and Juan Carlos Schmid, failed to set out a specific date for the national strike in their speeches, pressure fell on the third leader and final speaker, Héctor Daer. Tensions reached a peak at the end of his speech, which was similar to his predecessors’.

Tensions rose to such a level that the members of the CGT triumvirate had to escape their own rally after the march’s factions who wanted them to announce a strike that day — instead of their intention to call one if the government didn’t change its policies — stormed the stage and tried to attack them. In a symbolic gesture, hecklers took down the lectern with the CGT image.

Daer had to take shelter in a nearby building to escape those throwing punches his way. The leaders were forced to flee the scene, with bouncers and hooligans as their bodyguards. Also among those caught up in the violence were the sons of historic former CGT leader Hugo Moyano, who were branded as “traitors” for not setting the date. Pablo Moyano, one of his sons, is now the leader of the Truckers’ union, which is part of the CGT.

Tensions had already begun to rise when the CGT leaders noticed that the more strike-prone unions, which weren’t part of the CGT but had joined the march, had taken the areas that were closer to the stage. In fact, this was the reason why the speeches began an hour before than what they were supposed to.

Yesterday's crowds. Photo via La Nación
Yesterday’s crowds.
Photo via La Nación

The worry is that a lack of a set date for the national strike will be favourable to the government, as it will allow them more time to try and negotiate with the unions to stop them striking.

But Juan Carlos Schmid accused the violent crowds of actually helping the government’s case. “That image of violence will be used by the government to say that they don’t want to return to the past…what they ended up doing was to serve the cause of those who want to us defeated,” he said.

He said those who disrupted the peace of the march were small group of Kirchnerites, and sectors from the left, most likely from Berazategui, a district whose Mayor, Patricio Mussi, is considered a staunch Kirchnerite. He washed this all down with a final accusation, calling them energúmenos, which roughly translates as raging lunatic, madman, or, um, one possessed by the devil.

Héctor Daer yesterday Photo via Clarín
Héctor Daer yesterday
Photo via Clarín

Speaking to political television show Intratables, later that day, Labour Minister Jorge Triaca seemed to express sympathy with the union leaders, saying “I understand the role they play, which is sometimes difficult and thankless….but I also understand that they have an enormous responsibility to those they represent.”

He too, made links to Kirchnerism, taking note of those shouting “vamos a volver, vamos a volver,” or “we’ll come back, we’ll come back [to the Kirchnerite era].” He warned that these people appear resistant to change, defending personal interests that go against the common good. Meanwhile, CGT leaders say that, should the Macri administration not change its economic policies in the near future, they will announce a strike in “20 or 25 days.” The other unions will give them quite a hard time in the meantime.