The Argentine powerful organized labour unions, CGT is heading for a fracture from the moment two different congresses have been convened at different dates, one of them supportive of President Cristina Fernandez’ administration and the other entirely in the opposition.
Behind the rift is the intransigent power struggle between two strong but stubborn characters of the current Argentine politics stage: obviously Cristina Fernandez and her absorbing personality and on the other side, a former ally and leader of the teamsters union and head of the umbrella organization CGT, Hugo Moyano.
“We will hold our CGT congress next October 3. This is breaking up, it’s already fractured” said Antonio Caló head of the metal workers union and a close ally of the government of President Cristina Fernandez.
Meanwhile the unions allied with Moyano, who has been leader of CGT for the last eight years, will be holding their own congress this Thursday, as originally planned, and despite been told by the Minister of Labour Carlos Tomada to suspend the act since “it will have no legitimacy”.
The unions close to government have questioned Moyano’s convening of the congress when he is supposed to be re-elected head of CGT, the organization that brings together eight million organized workers.
Moyano who proved to be a most effective and efficient ally of the late President Nestor Kirchner when he was battling to rescue Argentina from the 2001/02 melting of the economy and default by keeping organized labour tightly united, also has shown to be a very powerful and political manipulator, maybe too strong and challenging for the Kirchner couple’s idea of concentrating all the levers of power.
Until the death of Kirchner in 2010, relations were still close although both the deceased president and Moyano deep inside were aware that at some moment political ambitions could distance them, which is what precisely happened when Cristina Fernandez took full command of the vessel and was overwhelmingly re-elected with 54% of the vote in 2011.
Only a few weeks ago Moyano and his followers organized a massive political rally with tens of thousands flooding Plaza de Mayo, next to Government House. A few days before the teamsters now under control of one of his sons, left Argentina almost short of fuel after blocking refineries and distribution centres.
“This protest is a message to try and convince government to abandon arrogance. We don’t like the way the way she likes to impose herself as if this was a dictatorship”, said Moyano at the political rally.
The motives for the protest in inflation-ridden Argentina allegedly to lift the minimum for paying income tax and lowering the maximum for having access to family allowance and other benefits.
But the real motive is power struggle, particularly looking ahead when a slowing economy with high inflation needs to be tamed by cutting subsidies, containing government expenditure and probably even a shock of real-economics to get agriculture and exports on track again.
Moyano also wants control of the unions’ funds which receive monthly mandatory contributions from all organized labour members (hundreds of millions of dollars) and is trying to determine who are the most potable leaders and candidates once the Kirchner cycle is over in 2015.
This has also a spice of vindication for Moyano since when the 2011 election President Cristina Fernandez left the congressional branch of organized labour virtually un-represented and replaced by members of her son Maximo Kirchner’s grouping La Campora.
“They call themselves Peronists and they attack us when we are claiming what is legitimate. As Evita (Peron) told General Peron: don’t forget the poor and needy they won’t betray you. I never forget the workers” said Moyano at the political rally.
Cristina Fernandez finally withdrew all support for Moyano’s re-election and has been wooing other branches of organized labour to dump him and set up a CGT more in line with the interests of the Executive.
But it won’t be an easy confrontation. “Cristina Fernandez and Kirchnerism face the greatest organized labour challenge since they took office in 2003”, said Rosendo Fraga a political analyst and historian, head of the Buenos Aires think-tank New Majority Studies Centre.
Besides since 2003 and until last year and with the exception of 2009, the Argentine economy expanded at over 8% annually, with plenty of surpluses to hand out and assure votes. However currently growth is rapidly stalling and inflation according to most private estimates is running at an annualized 25%, which makes it a completely different scenario. Stag-inflation is the worst battle field Cristina Fernandez could have chosen.