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General strike brings Argentina to standstill

BUENOS AIRES, April 10 (Xinhua) -- A general strike brought Argentina to a standstill Thursday, with most transportation unions joining the protest against the policies of President Cristina Fernandez's government.

A spokesman for Argentina's General Confederation of Labor (CGT) said the show of strength had "a high degree of participation," with "land, rail and aeronautic transportation trade unions, as well as restaurant workers, truckers and industrial workers, not showing up for work."

A union leader and member of the CGT's board of directors, Juan Carlos Smith, said "more than a million workers joined the strike" to protest inflation, crime and the decreasing purchasing power of wages.

According to government figures, there are 10 million active workers in Argentina, of which 4 million are affiliated with a trade union.

Fernandez's chief of staff Jorge Milton Capitanich called the general strike "anti-democratic", saying the work stoppage by the transportation workers prevented employees in other sectors from getting to their jobs.

The strike promoted by the political opposition "lays siege to the large urban centers," using "a medieval technique common in the Middle Ages" to prevent people from getting around, said Capitanich.

The strike began at midnight with the total suspension of public transportation and operations at gas filling stations.

In the aeronautic sector, Ricardo Cirielli of the Aeronautic Technicians Association (APTA) said Argentine Airlines, LAN, Austral and Sol, among other carriers, "are not operating ... (and) have been forced to cancel all their domestic and some international flights," because even though the pilots were not on strike, the air traffic controllers were.

Several teachers and shop workers unions did not join the strike, and several violent incidents were reported between those in support of the strike and those against, including at two underground train lines where workers decided to continue operating.

Roberto Pianelli, secretary general of the association of underground train workers unions (AGTSyP), said "we didn't join the strike because we don't agree with the claims of the trade unions belonging to the (political) opposition."

The strike marks the second anti-government general strike since November 2012.

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