Protestors began gathering this morning in the Plaza de Mayo and around the Obelisk in preparation for what the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) predicts to be a 150,000 person demonstration later this afternoon.
Hugo Moyano, Secretary General of the CGT, called for the demonstration. The protest represents the first time that the CGT has mobilised against the government in the Plaza de Mayo in either Kirchnerist presidency.
Historically, the Kirchners had a good relationship with Moyano. Since the death of Néstor Kirchner, however, the relationship between Moyano and President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has become strained.
The central demand of the protesters is a raise in the income tax threshold. Other demands include a call for to lift the cap on universal family benefits and school aid.
Yesterday afternoon, President Fernández made a speech defending the current tax policies and criticising Moyano, although she did not refer to the union leader by name. She stated that the Moyano’s call for a raise in the income tax threshold would only affect 19% of workers.
She stated, “There will not be extortion, threats, or affront that will steer me from the path that I have chosen,” as quoted by Página 12.
In response to the president’s speech, Moyano commented that Fernández, “does not understand the value of money,” as quoted by Clarín.
While the central demonstration in the Plaza de Mayo will not begin until 2pm, workers began marching from different points around the city as early as 9am.
The demonstrations were already causing disruptions in city traffic this morning. Av. 9 de Julio had been blocked off between Corrientes and Belgrano.
Unions have been divided as to who is participating. The protesters who are participating will arrive at the demonstration in the Plaza de Mayo in three flanks.
Moyano is directing the unions of his CGT umbrella group that are participating along the Diagonal Sur. Notable among those unions that will be present is the truck drivers’ union headed by Moyano’s son Pablo. Members of the CGT that oppose Moyano and are not participating in today’s demonstrations plan to offer the government their own proposal.
Barrionuevo is leading a collection of 56 unions – including the restaurant and hotel workers’ union that he directs – from the 9 de Julio and the Avenida de Mayo.
A third flank, organized by the opposition party Frente de Izquierda, gathered near the Obelisk to march towards the Plaza. Several other opposition parties and social groups will also be present.
The first demonstrators to arrive this morning were the truck drivers of the city of Olavarría, shortly followed by delegations from Lanús and Santa Fe.
Notably absent amongst the demonstrators are the CTA unions, the farm leaders, anti-Moyano CGT unions, and the independent unions, including among others the majority of those connected to public transport, the taxi drivers union, and unions of government workers.
A stage has been constructed in the centre of the Plaza de Mayo. Moyano is expected to speak at 3pm and will deliver a list of demands to the president. The plaza is filled with the flags of various unions.
The federal and metropolitan police were both monitoring the plaza as of this morning. President Fernández announced yesterday, however, that there would not be police presence in the plaza during the full demonstration this afternoon so as to avoid confrontation. Police will be monitoring the Casa Rosada only.
Fernández de Kirchner announced the lack of police presence during today’s activities after formally offering condolences for the death of the nine members of the gendarmerie that were killed in an accident after returning from a protest in Chubut. She commented that “it is not just that they should have to be insulted, spit upon, or pushed,” as quoted by Clarín.
Moyano has suggested, however, that the move is an effort to generate an incident during the protest.
Today’s protests follow on the back of strikes and protests last week. A week ago Wednesday, Pablo Moyano’s truck drivers’ union blocked the distribution of fuel, forcing the president to return early from the Río+20 environmental summit.
Last week’s demonstrations arose from a conflict between the Truck Driver’s Union and the Cargo Logistics Chamber. The Cargo Logistics Chamber offered a 21% salary increase, but the union demanded a 30% increase.
Plans for strikes ended in most of the country when the Ministry of Labour called for a conciliatory agreement between the two groups. An agreement has since been reached for a 25.5% salary increase.
The income tax and collection of family allowances were also topics of concern during these earlier strikes.
How will the strikes affect your day?
The strikes and protests are expected to cause complications in transportation and public services.
The truck driver’s strike, which began at midnight, will have the most notable effects. Their demonstration will effect the distribution of fuel, food, mail and newspapers, as well as trash collection.
Both local city bus travel and long-term bus travel are operational, as the UTA transport workers’ union is not participating in today’s demonstrations. Nevertheless, delays are expected – particularly this afternoon – due to the magnitude of the protests in the centre of the city.
It remains unclear to what degree subte travel will be affected; neither the UTA transport workers’ union nor the Association of Subte Workers elected to participate in the protest, but some of the staff of the A, B and H lines have chosen to participate.
Trains are operating normally, although delays are expected.
Air traffic travel will be affected; various unions connected to air travel are participating in the mobilizations to differing degrees. Aeolíneas Argentinas, Austral, Lan Argentina, Sol and Andes have all rescheduled their flights to leave the window of 12pm to 6pm open. The companies ask that passengers call in advance to find out if their travel plans will be affected.
Gas stations are not selling fuel from 12pm through the end of the demonstrations.
Part of the banking industry is taking part in the demonstration, but to a lesser extent than other industries. Banks are accordingly expected to be fully operational.
Hospitals and all government offices are operating normally.