Argentina's opposition leaders of the Juntos por el Cambio (JxC - Together for Change) took center stage during Saturday's tractorazo (tractor caravan) towards Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo with which rural producers protested against several measures from the administration of President Alberto Fernàndez which were detrimental to them.
But with the presence of Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, and PRO Chairwoman Patricia Bullrich among other party prominent figures, whatever effort was made on the part of the groups whose economy has been meddled with ended up looking like just another political rally - it became unclear whether JxC supported the people's demands or if it was just the other way around and rural producers supported the 2023 presidential campaign of those politicians from, as one bypasser told MercoPress, Together for the Picture.
As thousands of demonstrators rode their tractors down Avenida del Libertador towards Casa Rosada, JxC supporters and sympathizers with the cause of rural producers were hard to tell from one another.
”We have not come all the way here to ask that they give us a hand but to get both of them off our backs (...) We are not willing to continue financing the noose with which they are hanging us, the demonstrators said once they reached Plaza de Mayo with regards to increasing taxes and costs.
Unfortunately we cannot take advantage of international prices to continue supporting the country,” complained the owner of a hen and pig dairy farm quoted by Deutsche Welle.
According to a study by the Fundación Agropecuaria para el Desarrollo de Argentina (FADA), 64.9% of the income of agricultural producers goes to taxes, most of it from export duties.
The protesters also showed fears of further taxation plans announced by Economy Minister Martín Guzmán on the so-called ”windfall income,” to be levied on companies that last year had profits over AR$ 1 billion (around US$ 5 million at the unofficial exchange rate) as a consequence of the Ukraine war. According to Guzmán, the measure would reach only 3.2% of the companies operating in the country.
Agriculture Minister Julián Domínguez told Clarín that Argentine producers had sold their output before prices shot up worldwide and that they will now face the next harvest with a 60% increase in the price of fertilizers. If there are any claims that need to be addressed, we are going to address them and we are going to listen to them, Dominguez explained.
Long live the homeland!, farmers chanted as they reached Plaza de Mayo from different rural producing areas, mainly in the provinces of Buenos Aires and Santa Fe.
Argentina is one of the world's largest food exporters and the participation of this sector in the economy has increased even more in recent years due to the impact of the covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine:
Over 70% of Argentina's income in hard currency stems from agricultural exports, which have increased nearly 60% yoy lately due to the COVID-19 pandemic followed by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Hence, the federal government eyes those revenues as potential sources for further financing of an increasingly mega State which supports a host of initiatives, most of which are at odds with economic progress, such as neverending handouts to the unemployed or to various minority groups.
However, the Fernández administration has vowed not to give in to pressure from the Kirchnerist faction within the Frente de Todos (FdT) government, which responds to Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK) and her son, Deputy Máximo Kirchner.
The mobilization had no formal leaders, which is why the presence of JxC politicians stripped it from legitimacy, despite support from ordinary citizens in the streets and also on social media.
Farmers want to work, export and produce more; we are always going to be on the side of work and that is why we accompany them, Rodríguez Larreta posted on Twitter.
The great engine of the country will be fundamental for us to return to the right direction in 2023,″ said former President Mauricio Macri, who had lowered taxes at the beginning of his term, but reinstated them again after the country went into crisis, in 2018.
The farmers were applauded by the thousands of demonstrators who joined the mobilization who blew the horns of their cars or joined the pilgrimage on foot, wrapped in Argentine flags and waving the Argentine Constitution.
Most banners and insults heard during the rally were aimed at CFK.
While the tractor convoy unfolded, President Fernández took part in an Evita Movement gathering, during which he said that those who earn the most should contribute the most and those who have the least should receive what they deserve.”
Rural production's main guilds have stayed away from the march and keep open lines of dialogue with the Government-