BUENOS AIRES – Argentine labor leaders called on Monday for the country’s unions to convene a strike against economic austerity measures that are expected to become yet more stringent as Buenos Aires negotiates with the IMF on a stand-by credit line.
President Mauricio Macri’s conservative government turned to the International Monetary Fund last week as the Argentine peso continued to plunge against the dollar despite the central bank’s decision to boost the benchmark interest rate to 40 percent.
The prospect that the IMF – which is deeply unpopular in Argentina – will once again have a major say in economic policy has increased the sense of grievance among government opponents already unhappy about massive increases in utility rates.
While individual unions have mounted protests in this capital and other Argentine cities, a member of the troika that leads the giant CGT labor federation said Monday that a coordinated response is needed.
“We have to organize our comrades and we also have to get the citizens behind us. That’s why we are doing this, comrades, that’s why we are in the street, so that the citizens accompany this action,” Juan Carlos Schmid said during a rally in Buenos Aires.
“Nothing is won without organization,” he said.
Macri met Monday with senators from several parties as the chamber prepared to take up an opposition-drafted bill to roll back the increases in utility rates.
The measure passed the lower house last week.
During the 2003-2007 presidency of the late Nestor Kirchner, Argentina paid off in full its obligations to the IMF and successfully rescheduled most of the sovereign debt that forced Buenos Aires to default in early 2001.
Macri, who took office in December 2015, insists that Argentina’s economic woes are the legacy of the policies followed by Kirchner and by his widow and successor, Cristina Fernandez.
The origins of the 2001 default, which was then the largest in history and occurred amid a financial meltdown and economic depression, went back to Argentina’s 1976-1983 military regime, which presided over a 465 percent expansion in public indebtedness.