Argentina: 'villa' residents fast for city services

As of May 18 a group of Argentine activists were continuing an encampment they had set up on April 21 at the Obelisk in Buenos Aires' Plaza de la República to push their demands for improved services in the city's 17 marginal communities, known in Argentina as "villas." The action's sponsor, the leftist Independent Villa Residents' Current, was calling on the government of right-wing Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri to declare a housing, health and educational emergency in the impoverished communities; to formalize their status as urban areas; to carry out audits of the cooperatives and businesses that work in the neighborhoods; and to regularize rents and housing subsidies. A statement by the group denounced what it called "the model of two cities that Macri proposes, where the rich city excludes the poor one…while officials of the city government don't hide their intention to fill their pockets." Leftist groups have confronted the Macri government in the past over plans that they say favor real estate interests over the needs of the majority of city residents.

Argentina: deal to probe AMIA blast struck down

An appeals court in Argentina ruled May 15 that a controversial agreement between Argentina and Iran to investigate the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center was unconstitutional. The two nations signed the agreement in January 2013, which permitted Argentinian authorities to question the Iranian suspects under Interpol arrest warrants, but only in Tehran. The agreement angered Jewish groups, who said that the deal empowered Iran without bringing any suspects to justice. Argentinine Foreign Relations Minister Hector Timerman announced that he plans to appeal the decision, saying that it was unprecedented for a court to strike down an international agreement. No one has been convicted in connection with the bombing, which killed 85 and injured more than 300 others.

Argentina: general strike targets Fernández policies

A large part of Argentina's labor movement participated a 24-hour general strike on April 10 to demand increases in wages and pensions and to protest the economic policies of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. With support from the Automatic Tramways Union (UTA) and three airline workers' unions, the strike shut down surface trains, subways, air service, schools and businesses in many parts of the country. Union leaders said the action was 90% effective, and the Argentine business consulting firm Orlando Ferreres & Asociados S.A. set the losses for the day at almost $1 billion. Government officials and Fernández supporters downplayed the significance of the strike, charging that relatively few workers actively participated and that people stayed home only because transportation was cut off by the UTA and by roadblocks that leftist parties and groups had set up.

Argentina: piqueteros press wage, service demands

Protesters tied up traffic in central Buenos Aires for more than five hours on Feb. 25 to press their demands for the center-left government of Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to increase pay and benefits in government antipoverty programs. Police rerouted traffic around the demonstration, which blocked cars and buses at the Obelisk in the Plaza de la República. The action was organized by several groups, including Barrios de Pie ("Neighborhoods Standing Up"), Polo Obrero ("Workers' Pole"), the Federation of Grassroots Organizations (FOB) and the Labor Association of Self-Managed and Contingent Cooperative Workers (Agtcap). Protest leaders held a meeting with government representatives during the protest, but these were "second-level functionaries," according to Barrios de Pie national coordinator Daniel Menéndez. "[T]he government is turning its back on the complaints of the lowliest people," he said.

Argentina: clash with police in Chaco water protest

More than 10 were injured as police moved to break up a road blockade by indigenous protesters in Argentina's Gran Chaco region Feb. 19. Qom indigenous peasants launched the roadblock at Pampa del Indio, Chaco province, to protest the failure of municipal authorities to provide potable water to their communities. They also charged that tank trucks that were promised as an interim measure stopped deliveries because they weren't being paid. Chaco Gov. Juan Carlos Bacileff Ivanoff said the protesters had been "tricked by pseudo-leaders," and charged that two police agents are among the wounded, hit by gunfire. Luis Saravia, local leader of the Movimiento Comandante Andresito, responded that "the indigenous brothers did not have arms." A joint statement by the National Campesino Federation, the Movement of Original Peoples and Nations in Struggle, and the Class Combat Current said the protesters were "savagely repressed" by police.  (Argentina Indymedia, Diario Chaco, Diario Chaco, Data Chaco, Feb. 20; La Haine, Feb. 19)

Argentina: peso falls as emerging markets weaken

The Argentine peso fell by some 8% on Jan. 23, declining from 7.14 pesos to the US dollar to 7.75 at the end of the day. The currency plunged by 20% in the early hours, to 8.50 pesos to the dollar, but regained much of the loss after the central bank intervened later in the day; the bank reportedly spent $100 million in the process. This was the worst showing for the peso since the country's financial crisis in late 2001 and early 2002.

Argentina: did Israel kill off AMIA bombers?

The 20-year-old investigation into the July 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires took a new turn on Jan. 2 with the publication of a claim by former Israeli ambassador to Argentina Yitzhak Aviran (1993-2000) that his country had killed most of the perpetrators. "The vast majority of the guilty parties are in another world, and this is something we did," Aviran told the Spanish-language Jewish News Agency (AJN) in an interview about his experiences in Argentina. On Jan. 3 Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor dismissed the claim as "complete nonsense."

SCOTUS rules for Daimler in Argentina rights case

The US Supreme Court ruled (PDF) Dec. 14 in Daimer AG v. Bauman that DaimlerChrysler AG (Daimler) does not have to face suit in California for alleged human rights violations by a subsidiary that took place entirely in Argentina. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled for Barbara Bauman, who represented 21 Argentine residents, allowing them to bring suit for the actions of Mercedes-Benz Argentina (MB Argentina), a Daimler subsidiary, during the nation's 1976-1983 "Dirty War." The plaintiffs claim that MB Argentina collaborated with state security forces to kidnap, detain, torture and kill certain MB Argentina workers that are either named as plaintiffs or were closely related to the plaintiffs. They argue that business activities in California by Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) as a subsidiary of Daimler should permit the filing of a lawsuit because of an important agency relationship between MBUSA and Daimler, but the Supreme Court held that Daimler is not amenable to suit in California for injuries allegedly caused by conduct of MB Argentina that took place entirely outside the US. 

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