Activists protest Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri massive layoffs and rate hikes
Thousands took to the streets of Buenos Aires to protest on Tuesday (April 19) against massive layoffs and rate hikes in the country since the arrival of Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri to power.
Holding banners and banging drums, workers – affiliated to the Association of State Workers (ATE), Confederation of Workers of Argentina (CTA) and social and cooperative movements – marched through the streets along Avenida de Mayo towards the labour ministry in downtown Buenos Aires. There, they joined others who had marched from others parts of the city.
Macri, Argentina’s first non-Peronist president in more than a decade, was elected on promises to end leftist populism and revive the South American nation’s ailing economy.
One of Macri’s first moves in power was to slim down Argentina’s bloated public payroll, firing thousands in a bid to tame a ballooning fiscal deficit.
He also eliminated generous subsidies that tamed water and power bills.
According to Eduardo Belliboni, who leads the Workers’ Party (Partido Obrero), the cuts have affected the poor tremendously.
“We have come from the poorest neighbourhoods of the suburbs, which have no water, no electricity and have a problem with rate hikes. There are tremendous problems of joblessness, especially among youngsters and we are marching precisely for that claim, for work,” Belliboni said.
At the weekend, Macri announced a series of social measures which included VAT refund to pensioners and the implementation of policies aimed to boost employment.
A leader of social organisation Barrios de Pie (Neighbourhoods on Their Feet), Daniel Menendez, said these measures were insufficient.
“We come from a long mobilisation to express, based on the announcement made by the President on Saturday, responding to social measures before a serious social picture, but they are insufficient and that is why thousands of workers today made a huge effort to approach the labour ministry to express the need for the implementation of consistent social policies in relation to the difficulties we are living through in our neighbourhoods today,” Menendez said.
He won the presidency late last year on promises of lifting trade and currency controls that had weighed down the economy under previous leader Cristina Fernandez, under whose leadership government deficits grew and central bank reserves were at precarious levels.
In four months in office, he settled a decades-old dispute with hedge funds that allowed Argentina back onto the global financial stage with its first sovereign bond offer since its 2002 default.