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Argentina leader faces first strike


By: Unknown Author
 The BBC News, May 22, 2002


The Argentine President, Eduardo Duhalde, faces the first industrial action against his government since he took office in January.

The protest - scheduled to begin at midday Wednesday and last 12 hours - has been called by one of the main trade union organizations, the faction of the Argentine Labour Confederation known as the dissident CGT.

CGT leader Hugo Moyano said that workers will demand a pay rise and will protest against the austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund before it releases aid to Argentina.

On Tuesday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets across Argentina, demanding food, jobs and a change in the government's economic policies.

Other trade unions have called a day of strikes next week.

Workers' demands

Mr Moyano's followers are due to march through the centre of Buenos Aires, before meeting to listen to four speakers in the capital's main square, outside the presidential palace.

However, correspondents say the strike may have a limited impact, as public transport will continue to function as normal.

The stoppage was initially scheduled for last week but, in a heavily criticized move, the CGT cancelled it because of bad weather.

Workers are demanding a 20% rise in salaries to compensate for inflation since January's devaluation.

They are also demanding that cuts in pensions be reversed and that the unemployed be given benefits.

IMF conditions

In January, Mr. Duhalde - a Peronist - became Argentina's fifth president in a month, after a wave of rioting and protests swept the country forcing President Fernando de la Rua to step down.

But according to a Gallup poll conducted for one of Argentina's main newspapers, La Nacion, 58% of people believe the country needs a new government to overcome the crisis. Of those consulted, 70% said the cause of the recession was political.

After four years of deepening recession, Argentina's unemployment rate has soared to more than 20% and the value of the peso has been sliding against the dollar.

Up to half the population is said to live in poverty.

The country's banking system is also in crisis.

Argentina is hoping to regain access to much-needed loans suspended by the IMF in December 2001 after it failed to meet budget-cutting targets.

The IMF has insisted Argentina's provinces slash their deficits by about 3bn pesos ($585m) from 2001 levels before it releases $22bn in financial aid.

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