Labor protest disrupts Argentine capital

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — A labor organization opposed to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez caused traffic jams and disrupted life for many in the capital Wednesday at the start of a 36-hour strike.

Members of the Central Workers Union, which includes many public-sector employees, joined demonstrations that blocked major thoroughfares in Buenos Aires in a protest over taxes, wages and the overall cost of living in the country. Union members also called on the government to halt a wave of private-sector layoffs.

Many local government offices in Buenos Aires and nearby cities were closed Wednesday as a result of the strike.

The strike was expected to be more disruptive Thursday as truck drivers, restaurant workers and some members of education unions join the walkout. The Central Workers Union is considered among the more radical sectors of the labor movement. Its members have criticized Fernandez from the left, urging the government to spend more on social programs.

Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich blasted the unions for blocking commerce and traffic in a "totalitarian" manner and dismissed the overall strike as "political in nature."

The protest comes amid deepening economic troubles for Argentina, with the economy in recession and inflation running around 40 percent. It also comes as the government technically in default after a legal dispute with U.S. investors has blocked its ability to pay holders of its bonds since July 30.