Buenos Aires: Argentina’s unions paralysed the country with a 24-hour strike on Monday in protest of the government’s deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
With no trains, subways, buses or flights in service, organisers expected at least one million workers to take part in the action.
Although the General Confederation of Workers (CGT) called only for a strike, more radical groups organised demonstrations that cut off access to Buenos Aires.
Toward 7:00am (1000 GMT), activists began to close off the main routes into the capital where hundreds of federal law enforcement personnel were deployed. Most of the city was deserted, including schools.
“The strike is against the economic program ... The IMF has always brought hardship to the Argentines,” CGT director Carlos Schmid told AFP.
The unions are demanding that salary negotiations for this year be reopened in order to align them with projected inflation, calculated at 27 per cent by the central bank.
Negotiations mostly took place at the start of the year, when the annual inflation target was 15 per cent — a goal which had been abandoned by May.
In the interest of maintaining dialogue with the unions, labour minister Jorge Triaca said his office was in favour of such negotiations.
Following a currency crisis in April and May, the IMF announced the $50-billion standby loan in early June after Latin America’s third-largest economy sought help to bolster market confidence.
Argentina has a bitter history with the global crisis lender, which many Argentines view as having imposed tough conditions that worsened economic pain 17 years ago.