Cristina Fernández, Argentina’s president, faced her first general strike on Tuesday. She must be getting used to protests by now, after big anti-government rallies on November 8 (dubbed 8N) and September 13 (13S).
While previous protests were the middle classes who took to the streets, this time it was workers, the bedrock of the ruling Peronist movement. For a president who is flattered by comparisons with Evita, the darling of the working-class in late 1940s and early 1950s Argentina, it must have been a painful sight.
Fernández’s critics, of course, think she has a tin ear. Though she is clearly aware of the protests – on her Facebook page, she tells people to get elected themselves if they have a better programme for the country – the likelihood of her changing course is widely expected to be nil. She may not convince all of the country, but she is not lacking in conviction in her government’s achievements or the merits of the economic model she says is cutting poverty, boosting growth, driving consumption and providing jobs for Argentines.
Eduardo Buzzi, the head of the Agrarian Federation, one of the country’s big farm associations, called the government “autistic” if it didn’t want to see what was going on. As he said:
We had 13S, 8N and now a country where 70 to 80 per cent have turned out on strike. If after this clear signal the government doesn’t call (us), then they’re tuned into some other station and watching some other film.
Whatever the government’s reaction, confrontation is sure to rise in the coming weeks. The government says Clarín, the country’s biggest media group (as well as some smaller organizations) must spell out plans to comply with a new media law by December 7 or be stripped of dozens of cable TV licences by force. Clarín says there is no such deadline.
A worsening economy with stubbornly high (around the 25 per cent mark) inflation, is also hardly likely to ease the mood of those whose patience with the government is wearing thin. Christmas is around the corner, but seasonal goodwill looks in short supply this year.
General strike disrupts Argentina, FT
Angry in Buenos Aires, beyondbrics
Power cut and protests hit Fernández, FT
Gloomy in Buenos Aires, beyondbrics
Argentine opposition turns up heat, FT