May 24, 2013
UOCRA union strikes again; one man shot
Labour infighting involving the UOCRA building workers union turned violent with bullets blazing for almost the second day running yesterday as the weekend gunfire incidents in the Greater Buenos Aires district of Florencio Varela were followed by more shooting in the Patagonian oil town of Comodoro Rivadavia early yesterday, with one person wounded and four arrested.
Only Sunday separates the gunfight in Florencio Varela, which left nine wounded, one of them reportedly crippled for life, from yesterday’s violence in the province of Chubut. But although both incidents centred on UOCRA, the battle-lines were slightly different in the two cases. While the Florencio Varela crossfire pitted supporters of UOCRA leader Gerardo Martínez against the SITRAIC breakaway union (who blamed Martínez for the violence), the Comodoro Rivadavia confrontation saw members of UOCRA and freighters resort to firearms.
Martínez yesterday received support from a previous rival, the La Plata building workers leader Juan Pablo “Pata” Medina (linked to ex-president Eduardo Duhalde, whereas Martínez was a national government favourite to replace CGT secretary-general Hugo Moyano until reports surfaced of military intelligence links during the 1976-83 dictatorship). Medina yesterday denied that Martínez was involved in the violence in any way, calling the Florencio Varela clash an “isolated” incident and ruling out any UOCRA problems at national level.
The Comodoro Rivadavia gunfight erupted in the vicinity of Chenque Hill when self-employed teamsters belonging to the Patagonian Business Chamber of Freight Transport (CEPTCAL) joined battle with UOCRA members along the Juan Domingo Perón highway. Both groups of workers were employed moving earth from the hill. The freighters were on strike, thus reportedly prompting the UOCRA workers to fear for their jobs and attack them although the police report did not identify any assailants.
The only casualty of the gunfight was a trucker named José Pratti, who took a bullet in the chest but the wound was not mortal. Police sources also said that the freighters were engaged in picket activities although this was denied. Inspector Hugo Herrera, the Comodoro Rivadavia 1st police precinct chief, also reported that all the confiscated firearms and all four arrests came from the freighter side although he admitted that there was a crossfire from both groups.