Opposition labor faction hits Argentine with general strike; government downplays effects



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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Labor groups opposed to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez staged their second general strike of the year Thursday, disrupting life in the capital and other parts of the country as many people stayed away from work and union demonstrators blocked streets to call for higher wages and lower taxes.

The effects of the strike were mixed. There were fewer people on the streets of Buenos Aires and goods went undelivered, and trash uncollected, as truck drivers took part in the strike. In some places, protesters tangled with police.

Some bars and cafes stayed open even though a restaurant workers union joined the strike, in which union members also called for more spending on social welfare and an end to a wave of private-sector layoffs.

Hugo Moyano, a leader of the General Confederation of Labor who has been a fierce critic of Fernandez from the left, said that in many places up to 90 percent of workers stayed away from their jobs.

"In the capital, there are some vehicles running, including taxis and buses, but they are empty, and that demonstrates the support for this action," he said.

The government sought to downplay the effects of the strike. Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said only about 25 percent of workers took part in the strike.

Labor Minister Carlos Tomada said the strike could not in reality be called a "general strike," given the level of participation, with no real effect on industrial production and other sectors completely unaffected.

Fernandez has faced increasing criticism with the economy in recession and a rate of inflation estimated at 40 percent that is among the highest in the world.

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