Argentine policemen form a cordon in front of demonstrators blocking
Buenos Aires - AFP
A strike by Argentine transport workers caused chaos for Buenos Aires commuters and forced airlines to cancel flights Tuesday as the government accused unions of playing pre-election politics.
Leftist unions set up road blocks at dawn on the main roads into the capital, as commuters carpooled or rented vehicles in an effort to get to work despite the 24-hour shut-down of the bus, train and subway systems.
Ports, garbage collection and fuel deliveries were also likely to be paralyzed.
All domestic flights were canceled for the day, as were some international flights, airport officials said.
"Airlines aren't operating. But since everyone knew about the strike beforehand, there aren't any passengers anyway," said a source at airport management company Aeropuertos Argentina 2000.
The strike, announced on May 12, is the second this year and the latest in a series launched by unions opposed to President Cristina Kirchner's government.
The three unions involved reject the government's bid to cap salary increases at 27 percent, complaining the figure does not keep pace with inflation forecast to come in at 30 percent this year.
They also oppose an income tax they say hurts the lowest earners because the threshold salary subjected to the tax has not been updated to keep pace with inflation.
Union leader Juan Carlos Schmid said the strike would send a "strong signal" to the government that takes power in December, after general elections on October 25 that will choose a successor to Kirchner.
The president's cabinet chief, Anibal Fernandez, called it a "political strike designed to generate confusion."
"They are obstructing people who want to go to work, the vast majority of the population," he said.
Several key unions, including in the banking and commerce sectors, did not join the strike because they have recently signed new contracts.