The Perpetual war of the Pampas

March 19, 2009

tractor-protestIt all looks very familiar. Argentina’s rebellious farmers are threatening to go back to their highway protests, the government is refusing to cut export taxes on soybeans and another showdown in Congress is on the horizon.

If ruling party lawmakers’ continue to refuse to take their seats and allow a vote on an opposition-led bill to cut the taxes, farmers will have a good excuse to resume road protests and a freeze on grains sales to starve the state of revenue.

President Cristina Fernandez will be loath to see another showdown on soy taxes after last year’s crushing defeat when her own vice president cast the deciding vote against her in the Senate, forcing the government to roll back the sliding-scale system that set off months of political turmoil.

Rather than risk another spectacular defeat, especially as she tries to move up mid-term elections to June, Fernandez could try to take the steam out of the opposition drive by lowering the taxes herself — and local media speculated this week that she was mulling such a move.

But government officials have ruled out that possibility.

Even if Fernandez were to offer a concession on the soy tax, it would likely be a small one because she would not want to lose too much face or too much income in an election year.

But a small reduction is unlikely to satisfy the farmers, making any resolution seem more distant than ever.

A year of bitter fighting, mutual insults and political tension has blunted the tool of negotiations and the conflict looks poised to drag on for at least as long as Fernandez and her supporters remain in power.

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