By Andres D'Alessandro and Chris Kraul
12:07 PM PST, November 20, 2012
BUENOS AIRES -- Strikes called by two Argentine unions pressing for reduced taxes and better social benefits paralyzed Buenos Aires and much of the country, the latest signs of an upswell in opposition to President Cristina Fernandez and her policies.
Truck drivers, garbage collectors, train conductors and airport employees observed the strike called by the General Workers Confederation and Argentinian Workers Central -- unions that combined have about 500,000 members.
An estimated 2,000 trucks blocked bridges and arterial roads in Buenos Aires as well as those leading to provincial capitals, bringing commerce to a halt. Hugo Moyano, head of the Truckers Union, was a strong supporter of Fernandez in her reelection campaign last year but has since turned into one of her fiercest critics.
Buenos Aires' main commuter airport was shut down by the work stoppage, stranding many provincial tourists and business travelers in the capital. All but one of the capital's rail lines were closed, and many commuters simply stayed home from work.
Fernandez has suffered a sharp decline in public approval, according to recent polls. After winning reelection last year in a landslide, a survey taken in August showed 58.4% of respondents viewed her negatively and only 35.4% positively.
Despite the slippage, rumors have spread that she will seek to change the constitution to permit a third term.
This week's work stoppage follows a Nov. 8 demonstration by thousands of citizens, convened via social networks, who took to the streets in Buenos Aires and other large cities to produce a cacophony of banging pots and pans. They were protesting rising crime, currency restrictions that have forced many to cancel foreign trips and corruption by public officials.
Fernandez attended a meeting of her youth organization, La Campora, in the northwestern city of San Pedro on Tuesday, but was expected to address the nation later in the day.
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