On February 13, under the banner of “Enough of hunger and price hikes, we want land, roof and work”, over 200,000 Argentines took to the streets. They were protesting the harsh economic adjustments and increase in the rates of basic public services imposed by the administration of president Mauricio Marci. The citizens are demanding that the government withdraw the unaffordable increases.
In Buenos Aires, thousands of citizens, along with representatives of several social movements and people’s organizations, took over the main streets of the city and marched to the Ministry of Health and Social Development. As many as 50 other cities, including Corrientes, Tucuman, La Pampa, Jujuy, Mendoza, Misiones, Santiago del Estero and La Rioja, saw similar mobilizations.
The demonstrations were called for by the Workers’ Confederation of the Popular Economy (CTEP), the Corriente Clasista y Combativa (CCC), Barrios de Pie, the Darío Santillán Popular Front and the Front of Organizations in Struggle (FOL).
The protesters are also demanding the implementation of a national parity that adapts to the increases in the basic food basket and the payment of public services. They want the government to declare food emergency and release funds towards social infrastructure and family agriculture, among other social programs.
“They leave us with no other option but to go on the streets to fight for our rights”, said a protester. “We are losing work, health, education, housing (…) and the hopelessness is spreading in our people”, said another protester.
Rampant inflation, resulting in closure of small-scale businesses, massive layoffs and increasing loss of purchasing power, is pushing a large majority of the Argentine population towards poverty. This has been accepted and recognized by the government. Carolina Stanley, the health and social development minister, admitted this week that the poverty rate that the National Institute of Statistics and Census of Argentina (INDEC) would present could be “a little worse than the previous one”.
Since the assumption of office by Macri, Argentina has witnessed massive hikes in the tariffs of basic services. The tariffs of electricity have increased by 3624%, residential gas by 2401%, water by 1025%, and public transport by 601%. These austerity measures are a result of the terms and conditions put forth by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in exchange for a credit of 57 billion USD. The IMF demanded that the Argentine government reduce its fiscal deficit and apply severe budget adjustments between 2018 and 2019.
Since January 4, Argentines have been continuously mobilizing in rejection of these neoliberal policies of president Macri. Within the national plan of resistance to the tariffs, different kinds of protests such as torch marches, ruidazos [a protest in which people make noise by banging utensils] and people’s pots [community canteen] were carried out throughout the country during the month of January till the first week of February.
People’s indignation against Macri is growing. His failed leadership that has escalated the national debt and the number of poor in the country, amid inflation, recession and devaluation of national currency, will surely have repercussions in the upcoming presidential elections in the country, scheduled in the month of October.