Thousands of Argentines protested the agricultural policies of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, in the largest demonstrations since late 2001, after Argentina's economic collapse. ( dpa )
The rallies late Tuesday saw a revival from six years ago of "cacerolazos," or protests in which marchers bang on pans to show their discontent.
The demonstrations were triggered by Fernandez de Kirchner's tough stance in a conflict with farmers, who have reacted to new taxes by setting up road blocks.
In Buenos Aires, there were clashes between pro- and anti-government demonstrators on the Plaza de Mayo outside the presidential palace.
Justice Minister Anibal Fernandez warned that people obstructing traffic "will go to jail" and threatened to remove blockades by force.
"If (farmers) do not move off the roads, we will make them move," the daily Clarin quoted him Wednesday as saying.
Fernandez de Kirchner, a centre-left populist, has remained resolute, two weeks into the conflict with organized agricultural interests.
"I will not be subjected to extortion," she warned.
In a country accustomed to street blockades by unemployed protestors and trade unions, Fernandez de Kirchner described the farmers as wealthy and their protests as "blockades of abundance."
Argentine agriculture has prospered in recent years amid high prices on world commodity markets and from the devaluation of the Argentine peso.
With its new taxes on agricultural producers, Fernandez de Kirchner's government is seeking to lay claim to a large share of the farmers' earnings for redistribution to poorer segments of society. Authorities also hope that high export taxes will keep more produce at home, lowering domestic prices and helping to curb rising inflation.
The current crisis was triggered by new export taxes, which are designed to escalate with the price of soya on world markets. The formula would effectively give anything above 600 dollars a ton for soy exports to government coffers; the current price is around 470 dollars a ton.
The mostly conservative farmers' unions have denounced such an export tax policy as "robbery."
The tax protests, which have sparked supply problems in Argentina's large cities, are indefinite, spokesmen for the farmers have said.
The resulting shortages and spikes in food prices could be dangerous for the government. In a country where steak is seen as a daily necessity, there supermarkets were reported to be running out of meat.