Argentine Agriculture and Livestock Minister Norberto Yauhar accused farmers who organized what proved to be a very effective 24 hours livestock trading strike on Wednesday, of responding to ‘political interests’. The farmers’ Liaison Board said they are considering extending the protest to other economic activities.
“The truth is that those who called for this lockout are mixing political interests against a decision from the government to review a transaction which has been totally harmful for the country’s assets”, said Yauhar in reference to the decision from the government of President Cristina Fernandez to seize the Argentine Rural Society’s (SRA) fairgrounds in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Palermo.
He then accused Eduardo Buzzi a farmers’ leader of involvement in politics for having participated in last week’s strike convened by dissident organized labour.
The Argentine farm producers grouped in the four main rural entities of the Liaison Board and which stopped livestock trading to condemn the government’s seizure of the SRA fairgrounds in Palermo said the measure was conclusive and warned it could be extended to the other areas of farming in the upcoming days.
The head of the SRA, Luis Miguel Etchevehere, said the farm lobbies “were analyzing extending the protest to other economic activities.”
The SRA has also summoned people to gather at the Palermo premises to sing the national anthem on Thursday at 7pm. In a press release, SRA said the rally will be held to reject “the subjugation our entity is suffering and, on the other hand, to defend the republican values and our National Constitution.”
The president of the Argentine Small Farmers Federation (FAA), Eduardo Buzzi, said the government “will end up confiscating even our family names,” in response to the seizure of the Palermo fairgrounds.
Buzzi, who is taking part in the protest, stated that if the sale to the SRA was subject to revision, then the land sold to President Cristina Fernández and her late husband and former president Néstor Kirchner in El Calafate (Santa Cruz province) “should be revised too.”
Reports have alleged that the presidential couple bought land in Santa Cruz at an extremely low price and was able to make a vast fortune by reselling them.
Buzzi also referred to other “attacks “against the farm sector such as the confiscation of the Renatre farm workers register and the annulment of stock certificates issued by the FAA.
The Argentine farm sector has been at odds with the Kirchnerite administration since the government tried to increase export duties on soybean to 45% in 2008 through resolution 125.
This decree sparked a major standoff which included roadblocks and demonstrations throughout the country. The initiative was then submitted to Congress and then Vice-president Julio Cobos broke the tie in the Senate by rejecting the bill.
Last week the Argentine government decided to expropriate the fairgrounds through Decree 2552/2012 alleging irregularities in the decree which allowed the SRA to buy the Palermo premises in 1991, when Carlos Menem was president.
Etchevehere said the expropriation of the Palermo fairgrounds was a vengeance act in response to the Resolution 125 defeat.
“This is revenge against the farming sector, revenge against Resolution 125 because we won that battle in the streets, in Congress and in the elections, so now the Government is looking for revenge,” he explained.
“They attack the Rural Society, the Agrarian Federation, they keep attacking us instead of looking for dialogue, as we suggested a few days ago,” he stated. “If the Government thinks they will be able to keep us quiet after this, they don’t know us, they are wrong.
“Despite these attacks we will keep saying what we say because there are serious matters taking place in the farming sector and they need to be solved”.
Former Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo with ex-president Carlos Menem also blasted the Cristina Fernandez government for its decision to declare as invalid the sale of Palermo to the SRA in 1991, and accused it of “spreading countless lies” as an excuse to justify their “illegitimate decree”.
Writing from his personal blog, Cavallo assured that the decree reflects the administrations “corrupt, authoritative character” and stated that “surely that appropriation was made in order to increase the sources of corrupt revenue that many in this government have used to get richer.”
Cavallo says the sale “not only was legitimate, but also highly beneficial for the general interests of our country.” He added that “President Fernández de Kirchner’s decree, which tries to annul a sale authorized over 20 years ago, is another demonstration of this government’s authoritative and corrupt character.