L-I: Bourgeois media reports on Argentina

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Thu Jun 1 16:54:44 MDT 2000


Agence France Presse                                                    May
31, 2000

ARGENTINE UNIONS CALL FOR STRIKE TO PROTEST IMF AUSTERITY PLAN

Buenos Aires - Tens of thousands of people marched Wednesday
through downtown Buenos Aires to protest a new government economic
austerity plan, with union leaders calling for a one-day national strike
next week. In an unusual move, the protest march was strongly
supported by Roman Catholic church leaders, who hold the IMF largely
responsible for Argentina's economic malaise.
        Waving Argentine flags, the protesters paraded down the streets
leading to the Plaza de Mayo and staged a massive rally in front of the
Casa Rosada, Argentina's presidential palace.
        "Nothing will move in Argentina, not even the leaves on the trees,"
labor leader Hugo Moyano told the crowd, in calling for a June 9 national
strike. Argentina "could derail the financial dictatorship" of the
International Monetary Fund, he said, while at the same time urging his
countrymen to refuse to pay their taxes.
        Organizers said 80,000 people joined the protest, held one day after
IMF economists arrived here to review the government's budgetary and
revenue accounts.
        Never before had a visit of IMF economists sparked such wide-
ranging protests, uniting previously divided unions and garnering support
from Argentina's Catholic clerics, traditionally among the most
conservative in Latin America.
        Union leaders used the rally to call for a national strike that
would be
the largest ever to confront President Fernando de la Rua, who took
office in December.
        A strike earlier in May, to protest changes to Argentina's labor laws,
was supported only by the most militant branch of the powerful General
Confederation of Labor (CGT), headed by trucker Moyano. But Rodolfo
Daer, who heads a moderate branch of the union, has joined with
Moyano for next week's strike, as has Victor de Gennaro, of the
Argentine Workers Confederation.
        Catholic church leaders have denounced the president's austerity
plan, which would raise taxes, reduce social spending and cut the
salaries of government employees in a bid to win badly needed loans
from the IMF. Moyano urged Argentines to engage in "fiscal
disobedience" by refusing to pay their personal taxes, which already
jumped between eight and 22 percent in January -- the steepest
increase in a decade.
        "We are going to be imprisoned, fined. We're going to hit them where
it hurts, we're going to call for fiscal disobedience so that Argentines'
strength doesn't go to foreign debt," Moyano said.
        De la Rua inherited a public debt of 115 billion dollars from his
predecessor, Carlos Menem.
        The IMF has granted Argentina a 7.3 billion dollar loan in exchange
for a commitment to keep this year's budget deficit below 4.7 billion
dollars. The government had spent nearly half that amount in the first
four months of 2000.
        The belt-tightening is generally supported by business leaders here,
who say the reforms are needed to bolster the economy and create new
jobs. Argentina's unemployment rate stands at 14 percent, but another
14 percent of the workforce is underemployed -- meaning they have
temporary or part-time work that is insufficient to support a single person
at the poverty line.



Reuters
    May 31, 2000

THOUSANDS PROTEST ARGENTINA GOVERNMENT CUTS, IMF

         By Robert Elliott

Buenos Aires - Thousands of union activists on Wednesday marched
through downtown Buenos Aires protesting government cutbacks they
blame on the International Monetary Fund's constant call for economic
austerity.
        Leaving the center-city streets unusually bare of traffic, the march
brought together the hard-line and moderate wings of the General
Workers Confederation (CGT) -- the country's largest grouping of unions
-- for the first time since they split in late February.
        An estimated 20,000 marchers descended on the plaza facing
Government House under cloudy skies, some waving banners that read
“The Death of Salaries.” Ten people clad in black hoods and shirts
labeled “IMF” carried a casket labeled “education, salaries, small-and-
medium sized business, health.”
        “We have got to put an end to this savage IMF austerity,” said
Patricia Walsh, a leader of the United Leftist Militants party who helped
lead the march.
        President Fernando de la Rua remarked the strike was “perhaps a
call to international financial organizations that they must also attend to
necessary social solidarity.”
        The two CGT factions will begin a 24-hour national strike on June 9
against public sector salary cuts and layoffs, said Victor de Gennaro,
head of the Argentine Workers Center union.
        The Argentine government on Monday slashed $938 million from
planned expenditures to help lasso its runaway fiscal deficit, which in
1999 hit a record $7.1 billion. As per a $7.2 billion standby loan deal with
the IMF, the 2000 deficit has to come in at no more than $4.7 billion.
        The government cutbacks, including $590 million clipped from public
sector salaries, are among a long line of austerity measures the
Argentine public has had to swallow.
        The stock market rose on the spending reduction, but Congress
remained closed as public sector employees railed against the dismissal
of 700 full-time workers after the shutdown of the legislature's printing
press.
        Top economists concurred it will take a further downsizing of the
state and other creative moves to bring the government's books in line
and kick-start the economy, which has been stagnant for the last 22
months.
        “This is a sickness and we are trying to apply the medicine,” De la
Rua said in defense of the cuts, dubbing the country's wobbling
economy as his “inheritance.”
        Argentina's government sliced public spending by $511 million in the
first quarter of the year and will continue on that pace through
December, Undersecretary of Economic and Regional Programming
Miguel Bein said on Wednesday.


Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org/


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