Since Argentina's military government came to power in March this year one of its main problems has been trying to curb the country's spiralling inflation.
Since Argentina's military government came to power in March this year one of its main problems has been trying to curb the country's spiralling inflation. And because of continuing cuts in public spending and the takeover of unions, it is faced with a threatened rebellion from workers.
SYNOPSIS: Before the government of Maria Estela Peron was deposed in March it used to claim very low unemployment. In part his was true. Between January 1974 and March of this year the number of civil servants increased by 350 thousand people. This of course meant a continuous increase in the cost of public administration. Since then the new authorities have tried to remedy this by reductions in the number of civil servants. Another early measure was to increase public rates to what they believe are the real value. But they know the possible consequences of their actions. They're both issues that could be taken up by their opponents because they affect the ordinary worker.
The cost of living that's continually rising, the low wage increases that have been granted, and the threat of unemployment, are driving Argentine workers to an explosive situation. They say their purchasing power has been cut in half since 1973. Trade unions have been taken over by the military government, making them ineffective. The workers therefore have no channels through which to voice their frustrations.
But recent massive sackings of union leaders at the company which provides electrical power to Buenos Aires, the capital, caused workers to down tools and refuse to work. Power cuts and industrial sabotage occur daily in the city. Postal workers, telephone company employees, and more recently, bank workers, have also started their own form of action to improve conditions.
But while the workers are laying the blame for their troubles at the feet of President Jorge Videla and his military junta, the government itself believes the economic situation will soon improve. Among its early victories on economic policy it claims the repayment of a large part of Argentina's foreign debts and an increase in exports. But observers doubt whether workers achieves the economic stability it claims it can bring about.
Although the national economy must benefit form exports, and the docks and its workers are kept busy, the men there feel they are reaping no personal benefit. If they do anything about it they could face the same fate as the electricity workers. In that case the Government invoked civil defence laws which allowed saboteurs and strike instigators to be arrested. But the Government on the other hand is being careful not to push too far, because they know that the guerrilla movements, such as the powerful Monteneros, are only too ready to gain from the widespread dissatisfaction of the people and use it against them at every opportunity. This week security forces raided one of the group's arsenals in Buenos Aires.
Since the military takeover there's been widespread political violence and nearly a thousand people have died. Army intelligence puts the Monteneros' strength at about 70,000. But it's the People's Revolutionary Army -- or ERP -- that's been the main thorn in the side of the Government. And even though its leader, Mario Santucho, was killed by security forces last July, they're still waging guerrilla warfare fiercely in a bid to bring down the government.