Tag Archive | "strike"

Latin America News Roundup: 1st April 2014

Costa Rica drought (photo: Manuel Kasper-Claridge)

Costa Rica drought (photo: Manuel Kasper-Claridge)

Costa Rica Votes to Protect Water as ‘Public Good’: The legislative assembly in Costa Rica voted last night overwhelmingly in favour of a new Water Resources Management Bill designed to regulate the use and control of water. The law, which requires a second vote, establishes water as a public good, and access to it as a basic human right. The bill will also create at National Water Directorate (DINA) to manage state control over water resources and prevent the privatisation and export of the good. The bill was developed as a popular initiative, after being originally presented by environmental groups that had gathered more than 150,000 signatures, equally 5% of the electorate. Costa Rica is vulnerable to rising temperatures, which could create major water shortages in the country’s northwest, according to the IPCC. Recent local studies highlighted the threat the the country could lose up to 85% of its drinking water supply in the next 50 years.

Bolivia – Government Postpones Mining Law Debate After Protest Deaths: President Evo Morales today ordered the suspension of a Senate debate over a new mining law after violent protests left two dead. “To avoid unnecessary and violent actions by mining co-operatives we have decided to postpone the debate over the new Mining Law,” said Presidential Minister Juan Ramón Quintana in a statement earlier today. Yesterday, mining cooperatives blocked major roads, including accesses to La Paz, in protest again a modification to the Mining Law, which has already been approved by the lower house of Congress. Violence erupted when security forces moved in to clear the roads, with two protesters shot dead and around 20 police officers injured. The new law would permit only the Bolivian state to sign contracts with private investors to exploit natural resources, effectively banning cooperatives – which have special tax benefits – from doing so. The independent mining sector, made up of approximately 100,000 miners, is a traditional ally of the Bolivian government.

Brazil – Work on São Paulo World Cup Stadium Suspended: Construction on the Arena Corinthians stadium in São Paulo has been halted “indefinitely” after the death of a worker on the weekend. The Regional Supervisory Office for Work and Employment in São Paulo state suspended construction work on two temporary stands at stadium after finding security flaws during an inspection earlier today. “We will only continue with the construction when there is a guarantee that workers can operate in safe conditions,” said the Supervisory Office representative Luiz Antonio Medeiros. On Saturday, Fábio Hamilton da Cruz became the seventh person fatality during construction work at world cup stadiums, and the third at the Arena Corinthians, which is scheduled to host the opening match on 12th June.

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Argentina News Roundup: 26th March 2014

Hotel Bauen on Callao by Corrientes (Photo: Sam Verhaert)

Hotel Bauen on Callao by Corrientes (Photo: Sam Verhaert)

Bauen Hotel Cooperative To Be Evicted: A judge ordered the eviction of the Bauen Hotel, run by a workers’ cooperative, in order to give it back to its original owners. Judge Paula Maria Hualde gave the members of the Buenos Aires Work Cooperative until 18th April to vacate the premises of the hotel, which they re-opened and ran after the original owners abandoned it in 2001. “Legally, we don’t have a choice,” said Federico Tonarelli, ex president of the cooperative and current head of the Argentine Federation of Work Cooperatives. “The sentence is final: as far as the court is concerned, the hotel belongs to Mercoteles and the judge should vacate a company with 130 guys that works really well: it’s crazy. The solution is political, but we can’t see a political will in Congress.” The members of the Bauen cooperative have repeatedly requested an expropriation bill to be passed by Congress: “What we’re saying is that, if the state executes the debts that [original owner] Iurcovich took up to build Bauen, the hotel belongs to the state. And we don’t want the state to just give it to us: let’s look for a solution, be it a lease, a loan, a 20-year mortgage to buy the building.” Following the ruling, Bauen workers are planning a series of protests and events in the coming days.

Monsanto Appeals Rejected: The government of Córdoba rejected two appeals lodged by multinational company Monsanto in order to secure an authorisation to build a seed plant in the town of Malvinas Argentinas. After Monsanto’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the proposed plant was rejected by the provincial government, the company appealed first to the Environment Secretariat and then to the Ministry of Water, Environment and Energy, however both instances were rejected. The next step for Monsanto is to carry out a new EIA, however under a new law, they will also need to go through a public hearing or local referendum in order to obtain approval for the plant. Also in Córdoba, the mayor of Río Cuarto issued a decree ratifying the ban on a proposed Monsanto seed experimentation centre in the town, after the company also lodged an appeal asking the local government to re-consider the ban established in November 2013. Mayor Juan Jure’s arguments for the ban are that the EIA presented by the company does not meet the minimum standards required, and that he wants to “preserve harmony in the town and the possibility to keep living peacefully.”

Teachers Protest In Front Of Education Ministry: Thousands of teachers marched to the Education Ministry today, ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with the national government. The protest was organised by national teachers’ union CTERA, but consisted mainly of teachers from the province of Buenos Aires, who are now on their 15th day of strike. CTERA representative Eduardo López highlighted the presence of delegations from Jujuy, La Rioja, Entre Ríos, Río Negro, Corrientes, Chaco, and Tierra del Fuego. Teachers are asking for wage increases higher than those offered by the government so far, which consist of a 22% increase followed by an extra 9% in June and a $3,000 extra payment based on attendance. The unions will meet national government representatives tomorrow at 10am at the Labour Ministry in order to continue with the wage negotiations.

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Argentina News Roundup: 31st January 2014

Buses waiting at the Retiro terminal (photo: Beatrice Murch)

Buses waiting at the Retiro terminal (photo: Beatrice Murch)

Bus Drivers Go on Strike: Long distance bus drivers have announced a 72-hour strike from midnight. They are demanding a $2,000 payment before the start of collective wage negotiations. Mario Calegari, press secretary at transport workers’ union UTA, said that the workers “are willing to negotiate” but have not received any offers so far. In a press conference yesterday, Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo said that the government “has had meetings with the head of UTA, Roberto Fernández” and with representatives of the bus companies in search of an agreement. The strike comes on a busy weekend, as many holiday makers return to their homes on the last weekend of January and many others, who take their holidays on the first fortnight of February, leave for the tourist resorts.

Central Market Vice-president Promises Lower Prices: The new Vice-President of the Central Market Corporation, Alberto Samid, announced that they will open up shops and set up itinerant markets in the province of Buenos Aires which will sell fruits and vegetables at prices “up to 50% cheaper than at supermarkets.” The idea, according to Samid is “to bring the Central Market out to the streets so that people can buy goods straight from the producers, so that there’s no inflation, but deflation.” Samid, who owns a chain of butchers’ shops, also predicted that beef prices, which were affected by a drop in the number of livestock, will go down: “It always goes up by 20% and then goes down 10 or 5%” The Central Market, located in the Buenos Aires district of La Matanza, acts as a wholesale distributor of fruits and vegetables and is under the control of the Domestic Trade Secretariat.

Government Criticises ‘Speculators’: Chief of Cabinet Jorge Capitanich accused large agricultural producers who do not sell their grain of being “greedy” and “speculative”. Those who avoid exporting their crops and bringing the resulting foreign currency into the country, said the minister, affect “savings and investment” which in turn produces “less investment and fewer jobs.” He also claimed that the government is “completely on its own, fighting against powerful economic groups” which put prices up, causing “inconveniences for consumers.” Representatives of the main agricultural organisations replied to Capitanich, saying that “the few producers who still have grains to sell are being prudent, not greedy, in a market where all their costs are tied up to the price of a future [US] dollar which they do not know and in a situation of inflation of over 30% annually.” Pedro Apaolaza, vice-president of Argentine Rural Confederations (CRA), added: “We are going to sell whenever we see fit, because this is a free country.”

Luciano Arruga: Today marks the fifth anniversary of the disappearance of Luciano Arruga. A 16-year old from Lomas del Mirador, La Matanza, Arruga was last seen on the night of 31st January 2009 when a police car picked him up from the street as he was walking home. Witnesses have reported that the police brutally beat him up and took him to the police station. His family has been fighting to bring the suspects -eight police officers- before justice, but so far no one has been prosecuted. Human Rights Secretary Martín Fresneda said: “As long as Luciano Arruga is missing there is a pending moral debt. Therefore, it is fundamental that the national, provincial, and municipal state reaffirm that responsibility from all three levels: executive, legislative, and judicial.”

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Argentina News Roundup: 13th January 2014

Bronc riding event at the 46th Jesús María Festival (photo: María José Malnis)

Bronc riding event at the 46th Jesús María Festival (photo: María José Malnis)

Animal Rights’ Activists Protest in Jesús María: A group of animal rights’ activists burst into the Jesús María Festival, in Córdoba, in protest against animal cruelty. The incident occurred last night in the middle of a performance by clown Piñón Fijo, which had to be temporarily suspended. Activists were protesting the cruelty horses are subjected to in the traditional festival, which revolves around gaucho activities such as bronc riding. The protest came a day after a mare called ‘La Polca’ suffered  a cardiac arrest and died during a bronc riding performance at the opening of the festival on Saturday night. Protesters argued that cruelty against animals has nothing to do with culture or tradition, and demanded that “the incidents of violence and cruelty be investigated.” The Jesús María festival celebrates folklore and gaucho culture and is carried out yearly. Last year, two horses died during the event, prompting legal actions from animal rights’ groups.

Wheat Exports Authorised: The government will allow for 1.5m tonnes of wheat to be exported this year. Economy Minister Axel Kicillof announced today that, in order to ensure adequate domestic supply, around 16% of the estimated 9.2m tonnes of wheat to be produced in the 2013/2014 season will be available for exporting. However, he also informed that the process will be gradual, with the first half a million tonnes to be released now and the rest “to be analysed.” Kicillof also indicated that producers will be able to export up to 50,000 tonnes of wheat flour this year. “The government’s objective is to guarantee the supply for the domestic market and for domestic prices to be reasonable,” said Kicillof, adding that “if the harvest is better [than expected], all the surplus [of wheat and flour] that exceeds what the domestic market requires will be exported.” The 1.5m tonnes of wheat represent approximately U$S800m.

Baggage Handlers Go On Strike: A strike by baggage handlers has affected scheduled Aerolíneas Argentinas flights leaving from Ezeiza. Despite the mandatory conciliation ordered on Friday by the Labour Ministry, workers carried out with their protest today as they demanded that more personnel be hired to work 12-hour shifts. Aerolíneas Argentinas, however, released a statement informing that they are currently in the process of hiring 70 staff to cover six-hour shifts during peak traffic hours. This afternoon, the conflict extended to the Buenos Aires port, where baggage handlers refused to serve incoming cruise ships. The Labour Ministry called union representatives for a meeting this afternoon in order to resolve the situation.

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Argentina News Roundup: 10th January 2014

Minister De Vido during today's press conference (photo: Daniel Dabove/Télam/jc)

Minister De Vido during today’s press conference (photo: Daniel Dabove/Télam/jc)

New Measures Against Power Cuts: Infrastructure Minister Julio de Vido announced today a series of measures to be imposed on electricity companies in order to better manage and reduce power cuts. Edenor and Edesur will have to increase the number of staff available for repairs by 20%, to 500 per company. They will also have to ensure that at least 70% of the complaints received by their call centres are taken by people, rather than answering machines. “So far the number is the exact opposite. Seven of out ten calls are answered by a machine and we want to change this,” said De Vido. In cases of blackouts, the companies will also have to publish daily reports indicating the affected areas. De Vido also announced that his ministry will invest $3.95bn in infrastructure works such as installing higher capacity cables, improving existing cables, and building new substations.

Dakar Competitor Found Dead: Eric Palante, a Belgian motorcycle rider competing in the Dakar rally, was found dead this morning. The body of the rider was found next to his motorcycle at km 143 on the special of the fifth stage, between the cities of Chilecito (La Rioja) and San Miguel de Tucumán. A statement by the rally’s organisers indicates that “the circumstances of Eric’s death are the subject of an analysis by the Judge Dr. Massucco of Belen [Catamarca province],” and confirms that the rider did not activate any alert mechanisms. It was also revealed that two journalists travelling to cover the rally died yesterday as their car fell into a ravine in Andalgalá, Catamarca. The Dakar rally, which goes through Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, moved to South America in 2009, and several deaths connected to it have been registered since. It has also come under scrutiny by local organisations due its alleged consequences on the environment.

Buenos Aires Teachers’ Wages: Buenos Aires province Labour Minister, Oscar Cuartango, announced today that the government will initiate conversations with teachers’ unions as early as the second fortnight of January. Collective wage negotiations, however, will not formally begin until February. “We will begin talking to the unions on the second fortnight of January; first we will talk about the technical aspects and [then] about wages in February, when the national collective bargaining is underway,” said Cuartango. This way, the Buenos Aires government will seek to settle the issue of teachers’ wages before the beginning of the 2014 school term in order to avoid strikes. The recent wage increases awarded to police forces around the country are likely to have an impact in other collective bargaining processes involving state workers.

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Argentina News Roundup: 27th December 2013

Bus number 5 (photo: Beatrice Murch)

Bus number 5 (photo: Beatrice Murch)

Increase in Bus Fares: The Interior and Transport Ministry announced today that bus fares in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area will increase by as much as 66% from 1st January. The new fare for trips of up to 3km will be of $2.50 (with SUBE, and $5 without); $2.70 for trips of between 3 and 6km ($5.50 without SUBE); $2.85 between 6 and 12km  ($5.75 without SUBE); $3.90 between 12 and 27km ($8 without SUBE); and $4.50 for trips of over 27km ($9 without SUBE). Only the first three categories apply to trips wholly within the City of Buenos Aires. People on welfare, pensioners, war veterans, and others will benefit from a fare reduction of 40%.

Bus Drivers Cancel Strike: This morning, long-distance bus drivers had announced a 24-hour strike due to take place on 31st December, as they demanded a wage increase of $2,000. However, the measure was lifted after the Labour Ministry established a mandatory conciliation. Roberto Fernández, Secretary-General of UTA, the union that represents bus drivers, had explained earlier today that they required a $2,000 wage increase ahead of the wage negotiation for 2014, the date of which is still to be set. Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo had criticised the proposed strike this afternoon, asking the union to lift the “irrational” and “unjustified” measure, and “not mess with the people who just want to have a peaceful new year’s eve.”

National Government Re-Finances Provinces’ Debts: Chief of Cabinet Jorge Capitanich and Economy Minister Axel Kiciloff met with governors from 17 provinces today in order to negotiate the payment of debts these provinces have with the national government. It was agreed that the grace period given to the provinces to repay their debts, which amount to $92bn in total, would be extended for three months, and it is expected that it will be extended again until 2015 after that. A $10bn decrease in the debt -to be shared amongst all the provinces involved- was also agreed, in exchange for a series of goals related to infrastructure, health, and education. The extension of the grace period benefits the provinces of Buenos Aires, Chaco, Catamarca, Chubut, Corrientes, Entre Ríos, Jujuy, La Rioja, Mendoza, Misiones, Neuquén, Río Negro, Salta, San Juan, Santa Cruz, Tucumán, and Tierra del Fuego. Córdoba was left out of the agreement as its governor, José Manuel de la Sota, did not agree with some of its conditions.

Ex-Siemens Employees Prosecuted: Federal judge Ariel Lijo prosecuted 17 former employees of the German company Siemens, accused of bribing Argentine officials between 1996 and 1998. The accused include former high-ranking executives of the company, who are believed to have paid over US$106m in bribes in order for the company to win a tender to produce Argentine identity cards (DNIs). The case also investigates Argentine companies such as SOCMA (owned by Franco Macri) which have allegedly been involved in the corruption scandal. Siemens was awarded the contract for the DNIs in 1998, under Carlos Menem’s government, but it was cancelled by his successor Fernando de la Rúa in 2000 after the scandal broke. No government officials have yet been prosecuted.

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Brazil: Oil Workers Strike Against Privatisation of Oilfield

Petrobras' office in Rio de Janeiro, where workers and activists have camped out in protest. (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Petrobras’ office in Rio de Janeiro, where workers and activists have camped out in protest. (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

On Friday in Rio de Janeiro, a group of activists and representatives began their second day camped outside the headquarters of Petrobras, Brazil’s semi-national energy corporation, as part of a national oil workers strike against the auctioning off exploration rights for Brazil’s largest oil reserve.

The Federation of Petrol Unions (FUP) convened around 1,000 people Thursday night in Rio’s Plaza Candelaria, from where they marched to Petrobras’ headquarters to set up camp. The protestors intend to maintain their camp until Monday, when they plan to move to the hotel where the auction would be held to sell off the rights of Libra, Brazil’s huge deepwater oilfield, over to private companies.

A union leader identified as Mao Mao said those protesting would be willing to face National Guard security forces if necessary.

“We are going to fight against privatisation until the last minute,” claimed Mao Mao, who described the government’s project to auction off the Libra oilfield as an “atrocity”.

FUP representatives say they are protesting out of concern over the “risks to Brazil’s sovereignty that may arise if the large oilfield falls into the hands of transnational oil.”

The measure to strike was approved in assemblies by regional unions across Brazil. The FUP also expected the backing of 90% of Petrobras workers.

On Wednesday, the FUP’s press director, Francisco de Oliveira, said such a strike would paralyse production on offshore platforms. However, Petrobras representatives issued a statement Thursday guaranteeing the normal functioning of all company operations.

Officials forecast the Libra oilfield contains between 8 and 12 billion barrels of oil and could produce up to a million barrels a day. Nine companies are currently vying for possession of the oilfield, including seven of the eleven largest petroleum corporations in the world.

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Panama and El Salvador: Health Workers Enter Ninth Day of Strike

(Source: Wikipedia)

(Source: Wikipedia)

Public health workers in Panama and El Salvador continue strikes that have left thousands without medical attention.

In Panama, doctors and nurses entered their ninth day out of work in opposition to the passage of Ley 69, a law that would contract foreign medical workers to fill positions left vacant by Panamanian nationals.

Spokespeople for the General Confederation of Panamanian Workers warned that the law might lead to the privatisation of medical services.

President Ricardo Martinelli has assured those on strike that the law would only contract foreign workers until a local replacement was found.

Félix Bonilla, advisor to the Ministry of Health, called on healthcare unions today to end the strike and, rather, begin a dialogue about the new law.

“We are appealing to the noble sense of physicians. We cannot harm patients,” Bonilla told local news agency Telemetro Reporta.

Officials from Panama’s Social Security Fund also urged striking workers to return to their jobs, citing the 10,000 medical appointments cancelled due to the strike.

Meanwhile, in El Salvador, medical workers on strike are demanding a wage increase of 8% beginning next year as well as the reinstating of a law that had guaranteed a salary increase with each year worked.

In the eight days since it began, the strike has resulted in the cancellation of 25,217 appointments, 575 surgeries, and 38,213 laboratory tests, according to the Ministry of Health.

Ruling out the possibility of negotiation, union representatives reported that partial closures of hospitals and clinics would continue until additional funds are guaranteed for 2014.

Yesterday, employees of various state ministries, including the ministries of health, education, interior, and culture, held a rally around the legislature.

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Peru: Workers Strike to Protest President’s ‘Unfulfilled Promises’

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala (courtesy of Wikipédia)

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Thousands of Peruvian workers marched through the streets of major cities today as part of a national strike called by the country’s largest labour union. Protesters blocked roads and avenues to express their rejection of the government’s economic and labour policies.

Roadblocks and marches orchestrated by the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CGTP) demanding an increase state employees’ salaries led to heavy congestion in downtown Lima. In Cusco, the strike disrupted the rail service to Machu Picchu, the country’s principal tourist attraction.

Clashes between protesters and police were reported in the cities of Ancash, Ayacucho, Cusco, and Iquitos, although no injuries or arrests have been confirmed by local sources.

Peru’s labour minister, Nancy Laos, dismissed the protest as “unwarranted,” stating, “the protests did not follow formal guidelines.”

The secretary general of the CGTP, Mario Huamán, spoke today at noon to a crowd of 1,500 marchers gathered in Lima’s Parque Universitario. A strong police presence had prevented the protesters from marching from the park to Lima’s historic center, home of the city’s government offices and parliament, where demonstrations are forbidden.

In his speech, Huamán criticised the “unfilled campaign promises” of President Ollanta Humala’s administration. Huamán stressed the necessity of “changing neoliberal economic policy, the restoration of labor rights, wage increases and the cancellation of anti-labour laws.”

Huamán also highlighted the protest’s national character, saying it had “brought together more than 350,000 diverse social and regional labour union affiliates from across the country.”

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Government Criticises Train Unions After Surprise Strike

Passengers waiting for train in Buenos Aires today (Photo: Gustavo Amarelle/Télam/lz)

Passengers waiting for train in Buenos Aires today (Photo: Gustavo Amarelle/Télam/lz)

The government has condemned the train driver’s union, La Fraternidad, for launching a surprise strike this morning, halting operations on the San Martín and Belgrano Sur railway lines and affecting more than 200,000 passengers. The strike began after train drivers refused to take part in routine medical examinations that they claimed were not rigorous enough.

According to Eduardo Montenegro, the Institutional Relations manager of UGOFE railway operator, the drivers “refused to take part in psychological aptitude tests, which determine if the employee is fit to work.”

Transport secretary Alejandro Ramos today stated that the drivers were being “childish” and had “bad intentions” towards checks that all workers must undertake in order to work, assuring that sanctions will take place. During a radio interview with La Red, Ramos went on to say: “Just as there are sanctions for civil servants when they do things wrong, there must be sanctions for everyone.” He added that the examinations “have no other objective than to protect passengers and workers alike.”

Meanwhile, the National Commission of Transport Regulation inspector, Fernando Manzanares, heavily criticised the drivers being “irrational” and affirmed that “no strike will provoke us to change the direction our work has adopted.”

The leader of the union La Fraternidad, Omar Maturano supported the decision of the workers and criticised the examinations by claiming they are conducted by nurses and not doctors. The union leader stated: “We want doctors or psychologists to conduct the checks. Today nurses were on duty and that is not serious. We told them that if there were no doctors we wouldn’t work and that’s what happened. You can go ahead and do the checks you need to do, but do it well.”

The measure comes days after the public prosecutor of Moron, Sebastian Basso, requested the arrest of Daniel López under the charge of culpable negligence leading to death and injury, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. López was the on-duty driver of the Chapa 1 which crashed into a stationed train in Castelar, causing three deaths and more than 300 injuries. Recent evidence suggested the train’s warning commands were in function and that López did not take action.

Referring to the Daniel López case, the La Fraternidad leader said that “the easiest thing to do is blame the employee to protect other people’s responsibilities.”

Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo, currently in New York, told local radio he was “fed up” with the actions of the drivers. “I’m so annoyed, sometimes it seems impossible to make any changes to the rail industry,” said Randazzo on La Red. “But they are not going to stop me, they won’t be able to.”

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