Fresh protests in Argentina against Macri’s economic measures

People with disabilities as well as students and teachers mobilized against the budget cuts announced by the ruling right-wing government of Cambiemos coalition in their respective sectors.

May 20, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Students and teachers mobilize in defense of public education in Argentina. Photo: El Intransigente

On May 16, two mobilizations against the economic policies of president Mauricio Macri were carried out in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Both, the people with disabilities, and students and teachers mobilized against the budget cuts in their respective sectors.

In the morning, with the slogan of “No to budget cuts in Disability,” over 7,000 people with disabilities, their families, health-care professionals and members of several organizations for people with disabilities, protested in front of the Quinta de Olivos, Argentina’s presidential residence, to denounce the budget cuts in the ‘Include Health program’. The call for the mobilization was given by the Permanent Forum for the Promotion and Defense of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The ‘Include Health program’ provides services such as education, rehabilitation, day centers, educational inclusion, therapeutic educational centers and transportation to around 30,000 people with disabilities. Recently, the government announced to allocate only 13% of the budget from May for these areas. “The officials do not take into account the real costs and inflation prevailing in our country, putting these institutions in a serious crisis, because of which, several services had been closed in the country and others are in a critical situation. Professionals working directly with these people are also affected, as their jobs are in jeopardy,” the forum cited.

The forum also informed that the government owes payments to some of the institutions that provide services to these people for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019. Therefore, they demanded the payment of arrears to the institutions as well as an increased emergency fees.

They expressed their concern about the complex procedures adopted by the National Agency for Disability (ANDIS) for the delivery of the National Non-Contributive Pension (PNC) to its holders. “This can lead to the abandonment of people in a situation of vulnerability who depend on the pension for their daily support and medical care,” said the Forum.

They also questioned the arbitrary decision to transfer to the provinces the administration of transport services that provides commuter services to these people. The organizations claimed that “this caused the suspension of services for many people with disabilities and, as a result, they have been left without attention in education, rehabilitation, assistance, among other areas.”

The forum informed that at the presidential house, they were not received by any official. In addition, a letter they brought for the president “was not accepted with the excuse that documentation is not received in that building.”

The Association of Private Special Educational Institutions of Argentina (AIEPESA), the Association of Help to Blind people (ASAC), the Archdiocesan Commission for People with Disabilities, the Obra Don Orione, etc. are some of the organizations that were present at the mobilization.

On the other hand, in the evening, under the banner of “in defense of university, science, technology and salary”, more than 25,000 University students, researchers, teachers and scientists carried out a torch march from the Argentine National Congress to Plaza de Mayo.

It was carried out as a part of the 48-hour education workers’ strike called for by a number of university federations for May 16 and 17. The National Federation of University Teachers (CONDADU), the National Federation of University Teachers, the State Workers’ Association (ATE), the Argentine Workers’ Central Union (CTA) and others gave the call for the mobilization.

The students and teachers were protesting to condemn the huge budget adjustments and to demand a greater budget for education sector. During the three and a half years of the ruling right-wing government of Cambiemos party, the national educational budget dropped from 7.8% in 2016 to 4.7% in 2019. The recent budget for universities has been reduced by 25% and by more than 55% in the sector of science and technology. It has affected over 57 national universities, where around 180,000 research teachers work and almost two million students receive higher education training.

The protesting teachers and researchers were demanding an increase of 35% in their salaries against the 15% offered by the government authorities. In addition to the increase in salary, they are also demanding an automatic update of salary as per inflation or trigger clause, payment of salaries in white money, regularization of contractual and ad hoc teachers, and recovery of the loss in salary during the period of 2016-2018.

“No to the adjustment of the government, no to the destruction of science and technology, not to the destruction of the future of Argentina. Because this is what they seek when the universities and the Science and Technology sectors are defunded,” tweeted Carlos De Feo, the general secretary of the CONDADU, explaining the objective of the March. “It’s a model that means exclusion, means misery, that’s why we are marching, because defending higher education is defending our country,” he wrote in another tweet.

“Argentina went from producing satellites to seeking budget for question and answers programs due to the lack of investment by Mauricio Macri in salary, university, science and technology. This government believes that higher education is a privilege. We need a country that has public education as a priority. Many universities are in a critical situation because the university budget was destroyed given the brutal inflation we are experiencing,” he explained in other tweets.