Thirty-two years, one month, and ten days ago — on 16 February 1976 to be exact — bankers, industrialists, the Sociedad Rural, and other leading organizations of rural sectors initiated a strike in support of a coup d’état (known as the Bosses’ Apegé Lockout), anticipating the military revolt of 24 March, all with the approval of the United States. That oligarchic, military, and pro-imperialist alliance overthrew a constitutional government which had already brought forward the presidential elections date in October of that same year. All with the complicity of the national press. The headlines of Clarín, La Nación, La Prensa, and La Razón exalted the overthrow of the constitutional order, going along with genocide and the neoliberal plan of Martinez de Hoz.
Then, while the genocidal dictatorship murdered and disappeared thousands of men and women — a majority of whom were workers who, loyal to the National Constitution, resisted and lost their life, liberty, and rights for that — the organizations of the countryside (which today uphold this “historic strike,” which is the term used by the same media that covered up the dictatorship) happily went along with the mainstream press that did business like that of Papel Prensa. The “countryside” neither struck nor protested against the dictatorship despite what the country and its people suffered.
Nor were there strikes and protests of the Sociedad Rural and other rural organizations when Menem and Cavallo plundered Argentina, liquidating state enterprises, eliminating millions of jobs, marginalizing millions of our countrymen and women, destroying the national wealth. and completely pauperizing the people. Not even when convertibility devastated their farms, foreclosing all of them, was there any “historic strike.” But they protested, side by side with the same media, demanding an iron fist, when workers resisted or when the excluded, villainous Blacks after all (as the “strikers” were heard saying yesterday at the “package pickets”), blockaded roads, begging for food or work.
And now, we have a government that is restoring the sense of dignity and social justice for all Argentineans; a government with a clear national and popular consciousness that, no longer a corrupt mistress to the superpower in international affairs, unites with our brothers and neighbors through the expanded MERCOSUR; a government that has promoted a productive model that combines the strengthened domestic market with the use of exports, having reestablished social dialogue through the collective labor conventions, making important changes in a very short time.
We are speaking of a government that did not forget about agrarian producers but created a farm-rescue program so that those producers, devastated by neoliberalism, would not lose their farms. It transformed them into profitable enterprises, modifying the exchange rate (from which wage earners suffered until the economy recovered), the exchange rate that — added to international prices — has permitted astronomical profits for all those producers that they had not seen in decades.
Nevertheless, when this government, in an orderly and sensible fashion, employs the mechanism of export taxes to progressively regulate a still regressive tax system, guaranteeing the supply of the domestic market abandoned by the egoistic greed of the oligarchy, in order to use those surpluses for fair social distribution and harmonious development of neglected areas, the financial and pro-imperialist oligarchic entente, devoid of a political leadership that guarantees accumulation of power, launches this wild protest, supported by the same media that favored the coup-plotters’ strike in February 1976. We are talking about biased media coverage clearly intended to destabilize the government.
And in that act of destabilization there exist many things that go unmentioned:
- Since the taxes are on exports, why don’t the protests target the monopoly exporters who are the ones strangling small producers?
- The romantic air that “the protests” affect hides the fact that a little more than 900 oligarchs own 35 million hectares, whereas 137,000 producers cultivate only 2,000,000 hectares.
- Those who reject the export taxes, safeguarding their fortunes and egoistic interests, are trying to get domestic meat and food prices to rise to international market values, which will make them inaccessible to the people, allowing only select minorities to consume them.
- If the protest is genuine, why does it exhibit so much class hatred against truck drivers and other workers? Why so much violence in the form of stone throwing, ostentatious displays of side arms (with silver grips, of course), and menacing rifles in the hands of the shock troops of the oligarchy destabilizing the nation and plotting a coup?
- It is not an agrarian strike, because, as is well known, the typical “strikers,” far away from cattle gates, are still doing all the tasks of farming: crops are being harvested and cattle fed, that is to say, their own assets are not at risk. The protest does not affect the protesters — rather it’s about screwing the rest of the Argentinean people. That is exemplified by the contempt that the protesters show toward those who have suffered and are still suffering from hunger, by squandering beef to build barricades, in an attempt to stop a nation that is reconstructing its future.
So, we are not fooled. The “countryside” is not on strike. They are working like never before, thanks to the policies that have been implemented in Argentina for the last four years and a half.
Those who are blockading roads and the media that are supporting them are doing so to defend the oligarchic-imperialist interests, the very interests that plundered Argentina and killed — by violence of weapons or violence of hunger — thousands of our countrymen and women in the last decades.
In February 1976, everything began with a protest like this. Let us not be confused. Let us be clear that the taxes are levied on exports, so we shall not stop asking whether there is no other hidden aim and why the protests are not directed against the monopoly exporters that are strangling small producers. Let us defend this national project that includes us all, not just the oligarchs who throughout history have frustrated our destiny as a sovereign nation.
Buenos Aires, 25 March 2008.
Secretary of Human Rights
The original statement in Spanish by the Confederación General del Trabajo de la República Argentina was circulated on the Reconquista-Popular mailing list among other places. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com).
Julio Piumato said to Página/12: “If the agrarian strike, which we consider to be a provocation, continues, the national mobilization of people will be quickly activated” (Martín Piqué, “La CGT fijó su posición frente a la protesta: Contra la ‘oligarquía’ del campo,” 26 March 2008).