Friday, 4 July 2008

Rural Argentina, once a government supporter, is now a fierce opponent

Published: July 2, 2008 IHT

ARMSTRONG, Argentina: Mayor Fernando Fischer was beaming in early March when this small town in Santa Fe Province hosted 200,000 visitors for a giant international farm show. Vendors fanned out over 1,200 acres of farmland, displaying everything from harvesting combines to the latest crop seeds. Sales for local companies were brisk.
It was a proud moment for Fischer and for Argentina's booming agricultural industry. But less than a week later the government raised export taxes for farmers to levels they could no longer stomach, setting off a political crisis that now threatens the government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina's Peronist president, after a little more than six months in office.
Today Fischer is one of dozens of politicians who have transformed rural provinces that were once Peronist bastions critical to getting Kirchner elected in October into centers of fervent political opposition.
Their revolt shows how deeply the president's decision has divided even the Peronists, leaving politicians from the interior torn between their party loyalties and their furious constituents.
It also reveals the source of much of their anger: the fact that the growing economic clout of Argentina's rural provinces has not translated into greater political say, not least over how their taxes are spent.

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