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Rampant inflation triggers nationwide strike in Argentina

Labor leaders in Argentina largely shut down public transport, schools, hospitals and other services on Thursday. They are asking for higher pay as the rate of inflation has shot up to 30 percent.

Argentina is struggling with a weakening economy and

rapidly rising inflation

, which currently stands at roughly 30 percent. Labor leaders are therefore calling for higher pay and lower taxes.

A nationwide 24-hour strike, called by the powerful CGT Union, brought large parts of the country to a standstill, public transport came to a halt, flights were canceled, hospitals provided emergency services only and rubbish was left uncollected. Many schools and businesses also remained shut.

The strike also affected the ongoing soybean harvest, practically halting operations in the city of Rosario, a major export hub. Argentina is the world's number-three soybean exporter and the world's top supplier of soymeal animal feed.

Organizers claim "millions of workers" supported the strike. Jorge Capitanich, chief of staff of the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, meanwhile, insisted that those who wanted to work were kept from doing so. Thursday's events were not a general strike, he said, but rather "a big national picket with a transport strike."

Kirchner's center-left government is being blamed for the high rate of inflation and high rate of crime.

The constant price increases and a sharp devaluation in the peso in January had set off hundreds of smaller protests before Thursday's national strike.

ng/jm (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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