Argentine protesters who cornered minister to be prosecuted.
The Argentine government said Monday that it will not negotiate under pressure with the groups of unemployed who in the past several days have stepped up their protests and are now preparing a fight plan of nationwide rallies.
At the same time, the administration said it would file criminal charges against the "piquetero" protesters who last week trapped Labor Minister Carlos Tomada all night in his office.
The term "piqueteros" is used to describe groups of disgruntled jobless who block roads to press their demands for aid and unemployment benefits.
President Nestor Kirchner personally ordered that a criminal complaint be filed after Tomada and several of his aides were trapped for approximately 12 hours in the Labor Ministry by a group of protesters.
The incident occurred last Wednesday when piqueteros who had rallied outside the downtown Buenos Aires building at midday realized that negotiations between their leaders and officials had bogged down and they decided to block all the doors to the ministry.
They withdrew only in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday, and only after officials agreed to sign a document outlining their demands, an action which the government later called "an act of blackmail."
Tomada's chief of staff, Norberto Schiaravino, said the administration "does not negotiate under pressure" with the group nor does it plan to include them in a government program that distributes food and 150 pesos ($52) a month to some 2 million unemployed heads of household.
Since taking office on May 25, Kirchner has met several times with the more moderate piqueteros leaders and included their groups in government jobs programs.
But this situation has caused a deep rift in the sector and spawned parallel organizations, some of which are resorting to radical protests like the one mounted last week at the Labor Ministry, where activists wielded sticks and chains.