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Cablegate: Argentina: Agriculture Sector Suspends Strike

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #0415 0942049
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 032049Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0626
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 000415

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

TREASURY FOR LTRAN AND MMALLOY
E FOR THOMAS PIERCE
PASS USTR FOR DUCKWORTH
USDOC FOR 4322/ITA/MAC/OLAC/PEACHER
US SOUTHCOM FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD PGOV AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: AGRICULTURE SECTOR SUSPENDS STRIKE

REF: BUENOS AIRES 0408 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Summary: Argentina's four main agricultural organizations
lifted their strike on April 2 for 30 days to hold discussions with
the GOA. Roadblocks have been lifted throughout the country and
food supplies are arriving in Buenos Aires and other major cities.
Local papers report that basic food items such as meat, dairy
products, fruit, and vegetables will return to grocery store shelves
over the next few days. Agrarian groups, nevertheless, vowed to
block the roads again if they do not reach an agreement with the
government. End Summary.

------------------------
Calling it Off...For Now
------------------------

2. (U) Agriculture sector representatives spoke at a rally April 2
in Gualeguaychu in front of an estimated 35,000 producers and
announced the suspension of the strike for 30 days. The decision to
lift the strike follows the Government announcement of additional
new measures in support of small farmers on March 31 (reftels) and a
massive demonstration in support of the government in Buenos Aires
on April 1. Contacts in the sector indicate that the main reason
for lifting the strike was that the farmers have gotten as much as
they can from the GoA at this time; they fear that a continuation of
the strike would damage the rural sector and risk losing the public
support that it has enjoyed so far.

3. (U) Leaders of the sector cited concerns about increasing public
frustration over food shortages in local stores as a factor in the
decision, with further shortages threatening the widespread public
support they have had up to now. The representatives called the
shortages a "consequence, not an objective" of the road blocks.
They also strongly rejected CFK's characterization of the farmers as
coup-plotting "golpistas." To drive the point home, FAA (Federacion
Agraria Argentina) president Eduardo Buzzi cited farmers who were
"disappeared" during the 1976-82 military dictatorship. CRA
(Confederaciones Rurales Argentinas) president Maria Llambias vowed
to keep an "alert and mobilized" state and return to the road blocks
if the sector is left "empty-handed" after 30 days.

4. (SBU) Ambassador met April 2 with Gustavo Grobocopatel, the
General Manager of the largest soybean producer in Argentina, who
called the current suspension of the farm strike temporary and
easily resumed at the end of the 30-day suspension. He said farmers
were anxious to return to their farms and harvest their crops (the
strike has delayed the harvest of corn and soybeans by two weeks).
He noted that much will depend on the quality of dialogue in the
weeks ahead.

5. (U) The GOA's Minister of the Interior Florencio Randazzo
welcomed the sector's decision and urged a quick resumption of
dialogue. Randazzo pledged the GoA would fulfill its promise to
compensate small and medium producers. Ruling National Victory
Front congressmen Carlos Kunkel and Agustin Rossi also welcomed the
lifting of the strike, but lamented the "political declarations" the
agricultural representatives made. A source close to the Casa Rosada
said there was much relief expressed last night be senior officials
that their gambit had prevailed for now.

6. (SBU) Comment: The truce is a cause for celebration by most
Argentines, with food deliveries to grocery stores resuming as early
as yesterday. Some within the GoA view the resolution of the crisis
as a victory for CFK in which she has grown out of her husband's
shadow. Most analysts consider this dispute to be a major setback
for the government, with the rural sector more united and vocal than
at any time in almost 100 years. As one leader of the agricultural
sector said to the press, the farmers decided to be the adults in
this situation, ignoring the provocations in CFK's April 1 speech in
order to get back to work. Having antagonized the rural sector, the
GoA's negotiating skills will be put to the test in addressing the
farmers' substantial complaints and preventing a return to
roadblocks in May. There is a lot of skepticism about whether the
government will be up to the test. End Comment.
WAYNE

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