THE BIGGEST general strike for 15 years in Argentina's neighbour Uruguay, in South America, took place last week. There was an almost total stoppage by public sector workers, and a very strong response in private industry.
It was the fourth general strike against the policies of Jorge Batlle's government. All the schools and universities were closed, as well as the state enterprises (energy, telephone and oil). Banks and finance houses closed completely. Public transport was very limited, and health services only did emergencies.
During the strike several demonstrations and meetings took place in the capital, Montevideo, and other important cities. Unions, the students' federation, housing cooperatives and neighbourhood organisations all took part.
Some streets of the city were closed with pickets. There were 'caceroleadas' (banging saucepans) in some neighbourhoods, and in Las Piedras city hundreds demonstrated in front of a government MP's house. In the evening hundreds more made a 'caceroleada' in front of the presidential residence.
This strike is the workers' and students' response to the economic crisis. Some people say that the current crisis is the sharpest for 100 years. For the first time in history the country's total production has fallen for four years in a row.
Officially 16 percent of workers are unemployed. But the reality is much worse. The right is trying to scare workers by warning of a 'breakdown' in society. But for the moment the workers' confidence and fighting spirit are increasing.