Unions stage one-day general strike in Argentina

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A street vendor sells sausages as demonstrators arrive to Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, June 27, 2012. A strike and demonstration called by union leader Hugo Moyano demands steps that would effectively reduce taxes on low-income people, among other measures. (AP Photo/Eduardo Di Baia)

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Thousands of striking truckers and other union members gathered in front of Argentina's presidential palace on Wednesday to demand tax cuts in a one-day work stoppage seen as a challenge to President Cristina Fernandez.

The strike was called by Hugo Moyano, the head of the powerful General Labor Confederation union, who was once a close ally of Fernandez and her late husband, former President Nestor Kirchner. Moyano's support helped Fernandez win re-election in October.

But their relationship has soured in recent months, and their ongoing spat culminated in Wednesday's strike, the first time the labor federation, an umbrella group for numerous unions, has called a strike since Nestor Kirchner took office in 2003.

"It wouldn't cost Mrs. President anything to ... talk to workers," Moyano told his supporters at the rally in Buenos Aires. He added that he hoped Fernandez would "realize that she can't continue with this overwhelming haughtiness."

Despite the impressive crowd that streamed into the Plaza de Mayo, where Moyano made a rousing speech urging Fernandez to dialogue with workers, the effect of the strike was limited. Public transit workers including bus and taxi drivers didn't take part, meaning that traffic in Buenos Aires and other cities was largely unaffected.

Fernandez was not in Buenos Aires on Wednesday. She travelled to a village in central San Luis province to inaugurate a pig-raising facility. She has repeatedly asked unionists to rein in their demands during a global financial downturn that's hurting the Argentine economy.

In addition to truckers — who union officials say took part in the strike almost unanimously — garbage collectors, newspaper and food distributors, some rural workers, as well as employees of the health and textile sectors walked off the job.

Moyano and the strikers are demanding the state cut back income taxes to improve wages amid inflation, which private analysts estimate at about 25 percent a year. They are also demanding better treatment from the executive branch.

Moyano is a gruff, former trucker who's reviled by middle- and upper-class Argentines.

 
 
 

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