Semana Trágica, a period of labor unrest that shook Argentina in early January 1919. The Semana Trágica (Tragic Week) was the result of a conflict that had been brewing for quite some time. Since the Radicals had come to power in 1916, they had been courting labor for its support. This courtship created resentment among conservative and business circles. Employers were allied against the Radicals' labor policies and in 1918 even created a strikebreaking body called the Asociación Nacional de Trabajo. Discontent among workers increased in part also as a result of the poor economic situation after World War I.
The problems began outside the metallurgical plant of Talleres Metalúrgicos Pedro Vasena, where workers had been on strike since 2 December 1918. At 4:00 p.m. on 7 January, as a truck under armed guard made its way into the plant, shots were fired, and a confrontation took place between security forces and strikers. Two hours later four people were dead, and thirty were wounded. Two days later a general strike was called by FORA IX (Federación Obrera Regional Argentina) in solidarity with the metallurgical workers. The workers took to the streets very early, and clashes with security forces soon ensued, such as the one that began in a cemetery at the burial of one of the victims of the fighting on 7 January. Many were killed. In desperation, President Hipólito Irigoyen called in the army to restore order, perhaps the first time the army had been used to quell social unrest. Thousands were arrested. After the strike was crushed, civilian vigilante groups patrolled the streets for several days in a sort of witch hunt against those suspected of having instigated the strike. Among their targets were Russian Jews, who were accused of planning a Communist uprising. There are no definite figures as to the casualties. Government sources put the figures at about forty dead and several hundred wounded. On the other hand, labor sources put the death toll at over 100. The strike reflected the long-standing antagonism between labor and business.
See alsoArgentina: The Twentieth Century .
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Juan Manuel PÉrez