Things are getting kind of crazy here because of a national farmers’ strike that is making it impossible to buy beef and difficult to get milk and flour in the capital! Farming is a huge part of the national economy, and Argentina is one of the world’s main exporters of beef and soya and wheat, while grains are becoming increasingly precious recourses throughout the world. So President Cristina Kirchner is raising taxes on farming exports (I read that some taxes have increased as much as 45%) and in response, the farmers have gone on strike. Protesters are blocking highways and not letting allowing trucks through, or dumping out the produce on the highway. I believe the strike has been on for like two weeks now, but it’s just starting to be a really big deal in the Capital, because there is no more beef left in the stores! The shelves are empty! And people here are accustomed to eating a LOT of beef, like every day! (well, the ones who can afford it, anyway.) What will they eat? Luckily for me, I eat more vegetables and grains than meat or dairy, and for some reason there are still plenty of vegetables for sale. According to the paper, milk and dairy are disappearing too, because trucks full of milk have been stopped in roadblocks for days, the milk is going sour in the trucks and not reaching the factories or stores. Yikes.
On Tuesday evening, President Cristina Kirchner gave a public address which was apparently intended to comfort and calm everyone, but it had the opposite effect, and after her speech there were huge protests all around the city, with people banging pots and pans in the streets. It’s interesting to note that there is a special name for these protests, the banging of pots and pans in the streets, CACEROLEZOS, In 2001, when the Argentinte peso was devalued and everyone lost their life savings, housewives famously took to the streets with pots and pans to protest. I’m not sure if that was the beginning of the tradition, or just the most well-known example.
Anyway, Cristina says she will not negotiate with the farmers until they end the strike, and the farmers say that they will not end the strike until she backs down, and the beef-loving residents of Buenos Aires are caught in the middle. It seems like public sympathies are generally leaning towards the farmers, this based on two casual conversations and the results of a readers’ poll in Clarin.