Photo via Telam

The general strike called on by the CGT umbrella union is underway and, so far, it seems to be having the desired effects from the point of view of its leaders. Things seem to be going, there is no public transportation service, airports across the country remain closed and an notable number of taxi drivers, following the guidelines of one of the two main unions in the sector, decided to not go to work either.

Several associations grouping small and medium-sized businesses (Pymes) also decided to join the strike, arguing that the deterioration of the labor market and the purchasing power of the workers’ salaries have significantly affected their sales. Gas stations, banks, ports and public schools have also decided to not open their doors today. Hospitals remain closed as well, but are providing an emergency service. Hotel and restaurant workers, in contrast, have not joined the strike.

The main union leaders assured that the strike is a “success,” as a great percentage of workers decided to join. “All across the country, we have shown we disagree with the government’s economic policy,” said CGT triumvirate member Carlos Acuña in an interview with Radio Mitre. In a press conference held later, CGT press secretary, Jorge Sola, said that “[Labor Minister Jorge] Triaca and Macri have to try to promote what they said they would do and bridge the political divide.”

“This is not extortion. Is it a strike that has a political goal? Yes, it is because we want for the economic policy to be changed,” he added.

Buenos Aires: Lla zona de Constitución mestra el total acatamiento al paro. Foto: Luis Pozzi
Photo: Luis Pozzi

Labor Minister Jorge Triaca conceded that the strike had a high level of adhesion, but pointed out that many people who wanted to go to work couldn’t because they had no way of making it to the City.

Different organizations supporting the strike staged road blocks along the main entry points to the City of Buenos Aires, attempting to prevent those wanting to arrive by car from making it. However, security forces led by Minister Patricia Bullrich have moved on the protesters and cleared the roads, something that has resulted in clashes between them.

The main moment of tension took place when protesters decided to completely block the Panamericana highway — the main access road to the City for those coming from the North — despite the security forces requested them to clear at least one lane.

“We have talked to the protesters so they would leave, now we will act,” said Bullrich, who is currently in the Federal Police’s headquarters monitoring the protests. This situation resulted in clashes that only stopped when the protesters caved and cleared a lane. Six people were detained and four wounded after the operative.

Bullrich. Photo via Clarín
Bullrich. Photo via Clarín

At the time of writing this article, security forces also cleared the “West access” highway and are also preventing protesters from blocking the Pueyrredón bridge, which is one of the main accessing points to the southern part of the City.

The reactions of the Macri administration’s main representatives came at the opening ceremony of the Latin American chapter of the World Economic Forum, taking place in Argentina. The first one to weigh in was Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, who said that “it is true that trying to attract investments amid a strike is not an ideal scenario,” but also highlighted that “this shows that democracy works in the country and that workers can express themselves freely.”

President Macri took the stage later and, in a clear reference to the strike, he greeted the attendees by saying “it’s so good we are all here today, working.” He went on to say that his government is implementing a “cultural change based on learning from years of going down a wrong path that didn’t represent Argentina’s values.”