April 2, 2008 in Nation/World

World in brief: President criticizes farmers’ strike

The Spokesman-Review

President Cristina Fernandez blasted striking farmers at a rally Tuesday, comparing their nearly three-week-old protest to a 1976 strike that sowed chaos one month before a military coup.

Seeking to build popular opposition to the strike against a disputed export tax increase, Fernandez urged farmers to immediately end hundreds of highway blockades.

“Is it good that highways are cut so that food cannot be transported to market?” she asked, adding that such pressure tactics will not work in times of democracy.

On the strike’s 20th day Tuesday, farmers manned 300 road blockades, which for weeks have strangled the flow of farm goods to cities, emptying supermarket shelves, blocking key exports and causing the biggest crisis for Fernandez since she took office in December.

Small farmers are denouncing a March 11 presidential decree that raised export taxes on soybeans from 35 percent to as much as 45 percent and slapped new duties on other farm exports to attack inflation.

The president’s speech marked a return to tough talk a day after her government offered concessions intended to benefit at least 62,000 small farmers, including transport subsidies, credits for dairy farmers and tax rebates for small soybean farmers.

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Poachers slaughter 740 alligators

Hunters invaded an environmental reserve in northern Brazil and slaughtered more than 700 alligators for their meat, officials said Tuesday.

Environmental agents discovered 8 tons of alligator meat on several barges during a routine investigation into illegal logging activities Monday, said Aldenira Queiroz, a top official with the environmental protection agency for Amazonas state.

Inspectors did not arrest the four men caught transporting the meat because they do not have police power, but prosecutors could eventually charge them with crimes against the environment, Queiroz said.

Authorities believe the hunters killed 740 alligators on the 2.5 million-acre Piagacu-purus reserve.

If health inspectors determine the meat is fit for human consumption, it will be donated to hospitals, schools and charities, she said. If not, it will be incinerated.

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