Moyano flexes muscles in half-filled Plaza
Dissident CGT union calls for increased security a month after national strike
The dissident CGT umbrella union led by Hugo Moyano flexed its muscles again yesterday, along with its member unions, in another display of political power that had as its main theme crime, calling on the government to urgently deal with the issue.
Moyano, who organized the event with his fellow-dissident CGT White-and-blue boss Luis Ba-
rrionuevo, had summoned their union members to Plaza de Mayo but unlike the last protest on April 10 which had basically shut down the city with the help of dissident CTA union leader Pablo Micheli, this protest was more of a political demonstration than a chance to press union demands. .
It was predicted that despite not being as big as the last protest, the demonstration would cut traffic for several hours because of transport union participation but the buses and subway systems were running throughout the day, with the only disruptions occurring in the proximity of the mass gathering of a few thousand people.
The rally officially commenced at 4pm with 100 schoolchildren wearing shirts with the words “Stop poverty” and “Increase pensions,” as the national anthem was played. It ended at 4.30pm. The union leaders read out a manifesto with a number of complaints over crime, unemployment, inflation, wage hikes, and afterwards Moyano and Barrionuevo climbed up on the platform to give improvised speeches.
“There is no greater satisfaction for leaders when they call on workers than that they show up and demonstrate their loyalty to those who have never betrayed them,” said Moyano. Barrionuevo, on the other hand, said they were “fighting for the union movement.”
Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich dismissed the protest, claiming it was a political move by a union minority and blaming the problems for which the unions accused them, such as inflation and crime, on others.
“Business, not the government, is to blame for inflation,” he said. Private financial analysts estimate that inflation will be over 30 percent this year. Capitanich then claimed that the crime issue wasn’t the national government’s responsibility but the provinces’: “People frustrated by crime should complain to Argentina’s 24 governors.”
Although union members comprised the majority of the crowd, they weren’t the only ones. Juan Carlos Blumberg, who started a national public safety campaign after his son Axel was murdered in 2004, accompanied the union leaders along with other relatives of crime victims while one of the special invitees was UNEN city lawmaker Gustavo Vera.
Several teamster union groups from different districts of the Buenos Aires City metropolitan area could be seen in the Plaza de Mayo crowd, ranging from 20 to up to hundreds for each group which could be identifed by the uniforms they were wearing, while the other half of the crowd had no uniforms. Teamsters, court, port, bus, railway, farm and food services union workers were represented and even though Plaza de Mayo was not completely full, it was still packed mainly in the area in front of the Cabildo.
“I don’t know exactly why we are protesting but we were summoned by the union because they said it had to do with crime,” SIVARA street seller union member Javier told the Herald. This statement was repeated many times among the union members the Herald consulted. Another union member affiliated with the Pompeya gas and soda union told the Herald: “We were told to go here for the security issue, we are protesting so the president can hear our claims ... we still haven’t received our wage increases.”
But the union members weren’t the only groups attending the event, even though they clearly were the majority.
Political activists from fringe groups such as the Revolutionary Communist Youth also participated in the event although it was mostly a teamster union gathering.
“Although we have our differences with the Moyanos, we agree with the political strike against government austerity,” Communist youth movement member Victoria told the Herald as she stopped momentarily to greet union members who recognized her.
In past years, many union strikes and protests have been centred around concrete demands such as wage hikes or labour conditions that were being negotiated between businesses, the government officials and unions.But this protest clearly did not have a definite demand.
When the Herald asked a union member from the merchant shipping fleet if he thought it made sense for a union to hold a protest over non-labour demands, he answered, “This issue is central, I’m worried for my kids who live in Villa Lugano... So, there is a point to this.”
However, many of the pedestrians passing by the protest didn’t appear to be too happy with it by the expressions on their faces.
“I don’t like the strike, they are interfering with the workers, it’s not necessary to protest in this way,” systems analyst Silvia told the Herald just after getting out of the subway. She believed that it didn’t accomplish much.
Meanwhile, a Modernization Department employee named Eduardo told the Herald that his boss had sent him to see how big it was.
“I don’t mind if they protest, as long as it is peaceful,” concluded Eduardo, as he rushed back to the office to tell his boss to not worry about the protest as it was “smaller than expected.”