A peaceful resolution has been reached after violence broke out between employees of bankrupt Argentine poultry company Cresta Roja de Grupo Rasic and government security forces.
On December 22, there was a violent confrontation outside of Buenos Aires between the poultry company’s workers, leftist activists and security forces after the groups blocked access to Ezeiza International Airport, the Argentine capitol’s airport. The motive for the blockade is the reclamation of the workers jobs, in what seems to be the first social conflict for the new government of President Mauricio Macri.
According to published reports from various Latin American newspapers, the incidents began when the gendarmerie, fulfilling a judicial order, advanced on hundreds of protesters that blocked the flow of traffic on the highway connecting the city to the airport located about 40 kilometers southeast of Buenos Aires.
For days, the Cresta Roja workers had been demanding back pay and governmental assistance to stop the closure of the company and the loss of more than 3,000 of its workers’ jobs.
The gendarmerie attacked with rubber bullets and military trucks equipped with water cannons and the demonstrators threw back rocks and sticks. At least one of the workers was arrested and some were wounded.
According to the protesters, the order to advance came from Macri. The incidents possibly originated from the new, center-right government’s announcement that is meeting to develop a special protocol for controlling protests, especially to avoid roadblocks on streets and highways – a popular way for dissatisfied groups to protest in Argentina. This in itself has generated criticism from union and social leaders.
Macri, formerly the head of Buenos Aires’ provincial government, was elected president in late November and took office on December 10. He succeeds the twelve-year-long leadership of President Néstor Kirchner and his wife Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and is the South American nation’s first non-Peronist president since 1916.
Newspaper reports from Buenos Aires indicate Macri’s government and the protesters reached a temporary agreement to end protests near the airport. The Buenos Aires Herald reports, workers will continue to collect government subsidies, Cresta Roja is now formally bankrupt and authorities are looking for a potential buyer for the company.
The crisis of Cresta Roja’s downfall is not new. According to Watt Global Media’s news archives, until 2014 Rasic was the second largest poultry company in Argentina. Cresta Roja enjoyed good times in the middle of the last decade thanks to commercial exchange agreements with Hugo Chavez’s government in Venezuela which swapped raw materials for oil. The company began its fall in 2013. Some connect this with the lack of corresponding payments for the sales to Venezuela. In 2014, Cresta Roja suspended its operations, and later the provincial government of Buenos Aires intervened to provide partial payment of the company’s salaries.
According to newspaper reports, the conflict was revived with the changes in the provincial and national governments in December. Additionally, Cresta Roja’s executives were advised to pay their debts or sell the company.