Thursday, May 23, 2024

ARGENTINA | 23-01-2024 11:54

Buenos Aires braces for first general strike of Milei government

Labour groups and social organisations will mobilise on Wednesday to demonstrate against Milei government’s reform plans, with a large turnout expected; Banks, public transport and even flights set to be affected.

Demonstrators will take to the streets of the capital tomorrow for the first general strike of the Javier Milei administration.

The strike, which will run from midday to midnight this Wednesday (January 24), has been called by the CGT (General Confederation of Labour) umbrella union grouping in opposition to President Milei’s sweeping economic reform plans. 

The libertarian leader has submitted a controversial DNU emergency decree and a mega-reform bill known informally as the ‘Omnibus Law.’ Together they would trim government regulation, slash public spending, allow the privatisation of state-run firms and repeal or alter more than 300 pieces of legislation.

A large crowd is expected for the demonstration in Buenos Aires, which will see protesters flood the streets of the capital and march from the Avenida 9 de Julio thoroughfare to the National Congress building. 

Demonstrations are also expected in major cities across Argentina.

The mobilisation will affect air and public transport services, as well as banks. Bus, overground rail and SUBTE underground metro services will be suspended from 7pm to midnight.

"In order to guarantee transport for the mobilisation to Congress, passenger services will operate from midnight until 7pm," the UTA transport union said in a statement. 

Domestic flights will be ceased for the entirety of the demonstration, said the CATT transport workers’ union in a statement. Aviation labour groups also confirmed the stoppage.

Low-cost carriers FlyBondi and JetSmart have warned of disruption. The former has moved all of its flights for the day to Ezeiza International Airport. The latter is offering customers a chance to change flights at no extra cost.

The La Bancaria bank-workers’ union has also confirmed its adherence, with sources with the group confirming to Perfil that "there will be attention to the public until noon," when the walkout begins.

CGT leaders Héctor Daer, Carlos Acuña and Pablo Moyano are scheduled to speak to demonstrators from a stage near Congress between 3pm and 4pm. 

Workers from the Camioneros, UOCRA, UPCN and SMATA unions, the labour groups with the largest numbers of members, will rally at the Plaza de los Dos Congresos in the build-up.

The columns "will enter along Avenida de Mayo from Avenida 9 de Julio towards the Plaza del Congreso, guaranteeing the circulation of firefighters, ambulances, emergency vehicles and their entry and exit along the entire route," the trade union confederation said in its statement.

Hoping to avoid clashes with the security forces, CGT leaders met with authorities from the National Security Ministry and Buenos Aires City Police on Monday to “reach a consensus on security and organisational issues" and guarantee the "peaceful development of the event.”

Tensions could emerge over the potential blocking of traffic, with the government seeing the blocking of circulation as its red line.

"Workers will demonstrate in peace and with order, to demand in front of the Congress that the deputies assume the political responsibility to comply with the popular mandate, guaranteeing the full exercise of all constitutional rights," the CGT said in a statement.

Labour leaders asked the authorities to “exercise strict control over the actions of the security forces operating on site in order to ensure the peaceful development of the event without provocation and/or aggression." 

They have requested permission to "install a stage on Calle Entre Ríos and from there to carry out the act towards the interior of the Plaza del Congreso, leaving space for circulation on Avenida Entre Rios," they explained in a statement.

City Security Ministry officials have vowed to ensure the “free circulation of traffic” in the area and responded that they would use “all the constitutional tools to ensure that no-one violates current regulations or commits contraventions, promoting preventive compliance with these rules, documenting actions, reporting them, and/or making them cease as appropriate."

Clarifying its position, City Hall declared: "It will not be possible to interrupt vehicular traffic, it will not be possible to participate with one's face covered in an intimidating manner, nor will it be permitted to use sticks or blunt elements, nor will it be possible to have children on the marches."

Ramping up tensions, President Milei on Monday said in an interview on Monday that the strike and demonstration would highlight the difference between the “two Argentinas” that exist today.

He argued that one of these “wants to remain backward, in the past and decadence," while the "another model," apparently his, "puts us on the road to being developed.”

More than 100 international trade union organisations, including the Confederación Sindical de las Américas (CSA) and International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), have publicly voiced support for "the struggle of the workers' movement in rejection of the economic policies promoted by the government.”

There will be demonstrations in solidarity with the march held in cities such as Montevideo, Paris, Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Brussels, Geneva, Rome, Berlin and Bogotá, among others. Most will take place outside Argentine embassies and consulates.


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