Argentina is facing a week of strike and stalemate.
The 30-day 'truce' declared by striking agricultural organisations at the beginning of April expires on Friday, and the failure of the government and the sector to resolve differences over export tax increases raises the prospect of new protests and roadblocks.
New strike actions could disrupt exports of meat, grains and oilseeds and produce further domestic food shortages and price rises. Agricultural organisations are complaining about the threatening attitude of the government's internal commerce secretary, Guillermo Moreno, who has invoked 30-year-old laws that could lead to the jailing of those who fail to keep up domestic supplies. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner herself has accused the agricultural sector of seeking excessive profits and of demonstrating "pre-democratic" tendencies, reinforcing fears of a breakdown in talks and new strikes.
Those concerns have caused bond yields to widen, while country risk has risen to a three-year high. The continuing stalemate may lead to cabinet changes -- it is generally assumed that Economy Minister Martin Lousteau's days are numbered -- although in practice this is unlikely to herald any shift in policy.
This bleak panorama for future talks is not likely to be brightened by the news that former President Nestor Kirchner will take over the presidency of the ruling Peronist party in the next few days, after the electoral authorities disqualified his only competitor for the post. The increasing concentration of institutional and political power in the hands of the president and her husband will not be conducive to negotiation, nor to admitting the possibility of changes to economic policies that rapidly appear to be going awry.