Argentina: Rubbish piles up in B.A. as workers strike
A bad week for Buenos Aires infrastructure; long distance bus drivers strike; teenage deaths and police torture in Salta.
A bad week for Buenos Aires infrastructure
A three-day strike by workers responsible for rubbish collection made life in the Argentine capital rather less pleasant this week.
The workers, who were demanding a bonus payment per ton of waste collected, blocked the access to a disposal ground in Buenos Aires province from Monday to Wednesday.
In response to the measure, the Buenos Aires city government brought criminal charges against the protesters, and asked residents not to take their waste out onto the street until the situation was resolved.
City environment minister Diego Santilli told Radio 10 that ‘the health of [14 million] citizens [was] in danger’, and that a political figure behind the protesters wanted the situation to continue.
Although the protest was lifted on Thursday, the backlog of rubbish was not fully dealt with until three days later.
In contrast with the capital district, in the wider Buenos Aires province the crisis brewing last week was apparently averted as the national government relented and transferred Governor Daniel Scioli the funds he had been demanding for payment of mid-year bonuses.
Removal of Subte carriages
There was little good news to be had from the city’s public transport network, as Metrovías, the company controlling Buenos Aires’ underground train network (Subte), announced that from Monday 16 July there would be 20 fewer carriages in service across all lines.
According to a spokesperson for the company, the carriages were removed from service because they posed ‘problems with regard to reliability’. The reduced service appears to be increasing waiting times and crowding in the Subte network.
According to Clarín newspaper, there are now fewer trains per hour than 20 years ago, but with a volume of passengers per year that has more than doubled (from 190 million to 310 million).
The announcement by Metrovías led to a clash between the national and city governments, who have been arguing over the administration of the Subte for some months.
National Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo laid the blame at the door of the city government led by Mauricio Macri. He said the national government had transferred $108 million pesos to Macri’s government for the running of the network, but that the city administration was refusing to cooperate.
The city government, which considers the Subte to be the responsibility of the Nation, asked in response why that money had not already been used for improvements.
Long distance bus drivers strike
This week also saw a short-lived strike by 25,000 long-distance bus drivers belonging to the UTA (Unión Tranviarios Automotor) trade union.
The industrial action, which lasted only from midnight on Wednesday 18 until late Thursday afternoon, nonetheless caused significant disruption across the country.
The union was demanding a 24% pay rise, which was eventually agreed in a meeting with officials from the Ministry of Labour. The Comisión Nacional de Regulación del Transporte (National Commission for the Regulation of Transport – CNRT) said it would fine the bus companies whose employees went on strike.
It is thought by some that the companies, who strongly protested the fine, gave tacit support to the strike. Many are angry at the national government due to its decision to reduce the subsidies it offers them.
Teenage deaths and police torture in Salta
The northwestern province of Salta finished this week with its image tarnished. On Monday afternoon, the bodies of two teenage girls, Luján Peñalva (19) and Yanina Nüesch (16), were found hanging from a tree near the neighbourhood of San Carlos in the provincial capital, where both lived. The girls had been missing since Saturday afternoon.
The circumstances of their death appear to indicate a suicide pact, although Peñalva’s family have indicated that they are sceptical of that explanation.
Later in the week another serious, but separate, revelation emerged as a video appeared on the internet showing members of Salta’s police force torturing detainees.
The video, filmed in the police station of General Güemes, shows one officer suffocating a semi-naked prisoner with a plastic bag, while other officers in the background appear to be submitting a detainee to a form of waterboarding.
As a result of the video’s diffusion, six police officers were arrested this week. Salta’s Security Minister, Eduardo Sylvester, called those responsible ‘criminals dressed as police officers’.
However, María del Carmen Verdú, a lawyer for the Coordinadora contra la Represión Policial e Institucional (Coordinator against Police and Institutional Repression – Correpi), said that the danger was that the case would be regarded as merely an isolated incident.
According to Verdú, the only particularity of this case was that ‘it became public’, since ‘torture is systematic and complaints [about it] are brought daily in Argentina’.