Argentinian police force strike for better pay, 2013

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Time Period:  
03 December
11 December
Location and Goals
Location City/State/Province: 
Buenos Aires, Catamarca, Chaco, Chubut, Córdoba, Corrientes, Entre Rios, Formosa, Jujuy, La Pampa, La Rioja, Mendoza, Misiones, Neuquén, Rio Negro, Salta, San Juan, San Luis, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe, Santiago del Estero, Tierra del Fuego, Tucumán
Location Description: 
All of Argentina apart from Autonomous City of Buenos Aires (a separate district from the province of Buenos Aires), Santa Cruz, and Santiago del Estero
Increase monthly salary of police officers from 6,000 pesos to 12,500- 12,600 pesos and better working conditions.

Buenos Aires officers demanded amnesty for former law-breaking officers and for retired officers to be able to work again.


In December 2013, Argentinian police forces throughout the country went on strike to protest low salaries that failed to match rising living costs. Analysts estimated inflation at approximately 25% that year, although the government of Argentina said it was less than half that rate. The strikes provoked looting, robberies, hundreds of injuries, and over a dozen deaths before the governor of Córdoba, José Manuel de la Sota, conceded to the demand and doubled police force salaries. Manuel de la Sota’s decision prompted police departments in other provinces to follow suit.

On the morning of 3 December, police forces in the Argentine province of Córdoba began a sit-in, demanding higher salaries and better working conditions. Police said that the entry-level salaries, many of which were below 6,000 pesos ($960) a month, were not sufficient for proper living standards in Argentina due to increasing consumer prices throughout the country. Violence began later that night as mobs robbed supermarkets, shattered storefronts, and attacked people and vehicles on the streets. Alcohol, cash, computers, and even televisions were stolen, taking advantage of the absence of provincial security forces. Supermarkets announced that they would remain closed until the strike ceased. Looting continued when the police rejected the initial offer from the government.

The governor of Córdoba, who was in Colombia when the strikes started, suggested that the strike resulted from the closure of 140 brothels in the province, which had been an extra source of income for corrupt officers. Additionally, he blamed the strike and the subsequent violence on President Cristina Fernandez for withholding federal funds that could have supported the police. Governor Manuel de la Sota indicated that the violence in Córdoba could have been quelled if President Fernandez had sent in the national police. Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich denied de la Sota’s claim, suggesting the governor was shifting blame.

The rioting and looting in Córdoba continued into the next morning, 4 December. Even as police and provincial authorities negotiated a deal, banks and schools in the province closed out of fear of the unstable situation. Governor de la Sota offered a total monthly salary of 12,600 pesos a month (including overtime and bonuses), which he considered "the best salary for police in Argentina." In 2013, this 52% increase equated to $2,044 a month at the official exchange rate, or roughly $1,350 at the black market rate (considered a more consistent measure for the value of money in Argentina). Miguel Ortiz, a lawyer speaking on behalf of the police force, reported that the government ‘verbally’ recognized police demands for a monthly salary of 13,000 pesos and that a deal was to be signed later that day.

The pillaging in Córdoba resulted in three deaths along with over a hundred injuries (primarily from shattered glass) and the arrests of at least 56 people involved in the looting. Once the deal was signed on 4 December, both the governor and police chief warned that anyone else responsible for raiding would also face detainment. National Security Chief, Sergio Berni, deployed 2,000 border police by the afternoon to help stabilize the streets.

In the following days, police forces in 20 of Argentina’s 23 provinces took part in a similar series of protests against low pay. Further rioting and robberies ensued across the provinces and led to stolen food, clothing, and furniture. On 5 December, 50 people attempted to rob a supermarket in southern Buenos Aires, resulting in the burning of the building and the death of the owner.

On 9 December, the police of Buenos Aires agreed on a deal with governor Daniel Scioli that raised entry-level salaries to 8,570 pesos a month. In addition, the agreement granted amnesty to lawbreaking officers and made 14,000 of them eligible for promotions coming up later in the month. Officers who had previously retired on 90% pay would also be allowed to return to work, effectively doubling their past monthly incomes. According to the government of the Buenos Aires province, some police continued to gather in a central square in hopes of a 12,500 peso base salary while most others returned to work. The governor of Rio Negro gave in to the 21-hour strike by the province’s police force, increasing their basic salaries to 8,500 pesos per month.

On 10 December, looting broke out across other provinces as Argentinians celebrated the 30th anniversary of Argentina’s return to democracy from the 1976-83 dictatorship. Police in 17 provinces refused to leave their barracks until their demands for better pay were met. Justice Minister Julio Alak, and Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich, suggested that striking security forces may have colluded with some of the robbers in several instances. Alak warned police officers they would be arrested if they refused to attend to their posts, and Capitanich called for the settling of salary disputes through dialogue rather than extortion. The federal government deployed more police, border patrol, and other security forces in particularly restive areas.

By 10 December, three people, including a police officer, were shot to death in Chaco, and two more people died in Tucuman. Jujuy and Entre Rios reported one fatality in each province. All of these deaths occurred inside stores that were being raided by.... Entre Rios’ Governor, Sergio Urribarri, blamed riots in the province on a group of 50 officers with poor records, who he vowed to have prosecuted. The only regions that did not suffer from strikes or robberies were Autonomous City of Buenos Aires (a separate district from the province of Buenos Aires), Santa Cruz, and Santiago del Estero. By 11 December, most of the other provinces had come to agreements with their police forces to raise salaries by almost 45%. These agreements helped personnel back on their jobs and prevent further pillage.

According to local newspapers, the police strike and lootings led to 18 deaths and hundreds of injuries in clashes between looters and armed forces. The Argentina Confederation and chambers of commerce estimated that 1,900 businesses were affected by the police strikes, and the nation suffered losses of 5.67 million pesos. The police secured a deal that raised most officers’ monthly salary to 10,000 pesos a month ($1612 at the official exchange rate), although the rate varied across provinces.

The accord did not satisfy all of the police officers, and governor de la Sota called for all governors to come to an agreement on a unified salary scale across the nation to avoid further revolts. Police in the Buenos Aires province ensured amnesty for lawbreaking officers and the return of retired police officers, but they only partially succeeded in increasing their salaries and working conditions. For most, salaries increased to a maximum of 10,000 pesos, except in Cordoba, where salaries increased to 12,000 pesos. Inspired by the police force’s protests, public sector workers in health and transportation also went on strike a few weeks later for higher wages.

Research Notes

Strikes for pay rises by civil servants were common in Argentina at the time due to high inflation rates and and sticky salaries.

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Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Nerissa Nashin 10/5/2019