Argentina’s teachers and trade unions participated in a nationwide strike Monday April 9, to protest police violence against teachers in the Southern province of Neuquen.
Teachers led massive marches throughout Argentina today to demand justice for Carlos Fuentealba, a 42-year-old public educator who died last week after a policeman shot him at close range in the head with a tear gas canister. Argentina´s main teachers union held a 24-hour strike, while the state-worker umbrella unions held a 2-hour work stoppage. This included public transportation and health workers and bankers.
Teachers in white work smocks led the march in Buenos Aires, carrying letters which spelled out "Nunca Mas" or "Never again". Tens of thousands throughout the country went to the streets to send the message, no more violence against workers.
A police officer from the Neuquén provincial force shot a tear gas grenade at close range at Fuentealba who was seated in the back seat of a car during a protest. Police clashed with demonstrators on Wednesday April 4 during a road blockade that the provincial teachers union organized as a protest action, after a month long strike to demand a pay raise and public education grants.
Tear gas canisters need be shot at a minimum distance of 30 yards from the target and manufacturers recommend shooting at an upward angle so as to prevent direct impacts. Witnesses say the police officer who shot Fuentealba was seven feet from the victim.
Alejandra Bonatto is a Buenos Aires public school teacher from the Union of Education Workers (sound): "This protest is against Governor Sobich. I think us teachers deserve to be at the forefront of this struggle because we are the future of this country. The death of a companero is the death of all us; the students, education, teachers and the future of the nation."
In the province of Neuquen, unionized teachers continue to block the major highway leading to Nuequen´s capital, where tensions remain high. Unionists, human rights groups and local organizations are demanding the resignation of Governor Jorge Sobich and they want members of his ruling right-wing party, the Popular Movement of Neuquén (MPN), to leave with him.
Sobich has said publicly that the repression was justified and legal. During a press conference, he told media that the teachers provoked a violent response. The death of Carlos Fuentealba coincides with the 10-year anniversary of the death of Teresa Rodriguez, a public school teacher shot by a police officer during a peaceful protest in Neuquen,