Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Argentine farmers end road blockade

ROSARIO, Argentina: Country roads and highways swelled with trucks bearing grains and gasoline during the weekend as Argentina's farmers cleared the highways after lifting their fourth strike in three months.
While hope sprang eternal here in Santa Fe Province that food rationing and gasoline shortages would finally ease, the latest chapter in the political drama began playing out in Buenos Aires, where the embattled president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, met with farm leaders late Monday.
Congress was expected to begin a thorny debate this week on an export tax, which touched off the farmers' revolt more than three months ago. In a long-awaited concession, Kirchner, her popularity plummeting in opinion polls, agreed last week to let Congress approve or reject the system of sliding taxes that she imposed on farmers in March.
Yet even if Congress can resolve the export tax dispute, the conflict has already struck a deep blow to Argentina's economy, to its international reputation as a major food supplier and to the psyche of its 40 million people.
"In just 100 days this has become like another country," said Cristian Zaráte, a farmer in Armstrong, a town about an hour from Rosario, Santa Fe's capital. "Whatever happens now, the damage has already been done."

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