Saturday, March 21st 2009 - 11:28 UTC

Argentine farmers back on the roads for a week

Argentine farmers are back in the roads, this time for a whole seven-day strike beginning Saturday, the tenth such measure since the conflict erupted a year ago when the administration of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner increased export levies on grains and oilseeds.

Farmers have already blocked major roads around the country

At a press conference Friday the four representatives from the Liaison Committee said that the strike begins zero hour Saturday until next Friday March 27th with all trade operations involving cereals, oil seeds and cattle for abattoirs suspended,

However transport and trade of perishables such as milk, fruit, vegetables and produce from drought suffering areas will be allowed.

“All farmers are in a state of alert and mobilization; the liaison remains in full session. But we do not sponsor pickets or road blocks”, said Mario Llambías one of the farmers’ leaders.

The farmers reaction follows Thursday’s frustrated congressional debate to lower or eliminate farm export levies which was presented by the opposition but the ruling coalition killed by not giving the necessary quorum for debating the proposal.

Furthermore President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on Thursday also announced that 30% of revenue generated from soy export levies would be shared with provincial governments, thus forcing several provinces short of funds to rethink their support for farmers.

The revenue sharing decree also establishes that governors who accept the additional funds, which is not automatic, must formally “adhere to the new system”. Farmers claim this is clearly indicative of the political intention behind the revenue sharing.

The Kirchner administration is also battling in Congress to advance the mid term elections scheduled for next October to June 28th. The decision surprised a growing opposition but still with no clear leader, which rejected the initiative. However the government managed approval of the new date in the Lower House and must now face the Senate, which is considered a tighter dispute.

But in Argentine politics governors and the three elected federal senators must team up for funds from Buenos Aires and the latest move could have an impact on a few members of the Upper House.

“It’s all a gigantic provocation, an aggression, particularly the way it was timed”, complained Hugo Biolcati from the Argentine Rural Society. “Yesterday (Thursday) we lost a great opportunity: we went to Congress expecting a solution that could lead us out of recession and re-launch the country’s economy, but the government legislators did not turn up”.

Llambías said that in spite of the government’s attitude farmers will continue with their dialogue attempts with government, most probably at Congressional level, but also through the Judiciary. ,

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