Politics 13-09-2018

Marches and pots popular in rejection of economic adjustment in Argentina

Enough of adjustment to the poor! It was the slogan of a crowd that marched in Buenos Aires to reject an austerity plan that drives the government of Mauricio Macri in exchange for more aid from the IMF to stabilize its fragile economy.

Several columns of demonstrators converged on the central 9 de Julio Avenue on Wednesday in a massive and peaceful protest that included dozens of popular pots a few meters from the Obelisk.

With his broken and muddy shoes, Jorge Abona is a 28-year-old teacher who teaches in a baccalaureate of adults of Ezeiza, periphery of Buenos Aires, where "lack of everything", describes.

"We want to tell this government to stop the adjustment plan," says Jorge who also collaborates in a dining hall of the Darío Santillán Popular Front, one of several social movements that support soup kitchens, day care centers and cooperatives in impoverished neighborhoods.

In a low voice, but firmly, Jorge claims: "Every time more people who are out of work come to look for a plate of food because they do not arrive with food for their children."

- More austerity -

The Macri government negotiates against the clock the terms of a severe adjustment to lower its fiscal deficit from 3.9% in 2017 to zero in 2019.

That is what he promised to achieve before the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in exchange for agreeing to advance some 35,000 million dollars of the credit for 50,000 to three years that he signed in June.

The first tranche of 15,000 million of that agreement disappeared in the middle of the government's efforts to contain a currency exchange that forced it to raise to 60% the reference interest rate cooling the economy that will fall 1% this year.

An IMF team, led by Roberto Cardarelli, is in Buenos Aires to continue talks with the government to "work around the launching of the IMF-backed program," a spokesman for the IMF said.

Macri cut his cabinet in half and announced more austerity. "We can not spend more than we have," he said when launching a cutout whose scope will be unveiled in the Budget project that must be turned to Congress this week.

With industrial production plummeting (-5.7% year-on-year in July) and annual inflation projected at 40%, Economy Minister Nicolás Dujovne admitted that "the recession will be more pronounced than expected".

- Enough adjustment -

"If we pay for the light we do not eat," reads a poster carried by a small woman with tanned skin as she approaches a popular pot to ask for a serving of rice and meat.

"We are not coup leaders but it is a year before the elections, how are we going to get there?" asks Graciela Trento, who at age 49 depends on charity to feed her two children.

"It would be better for us who are poor if the government leaves now so it does not continue to do so much damage, we suffer every day," he says, pointing out that the price of food has gone up in the air.

As a consequence of the crisis, "poverty will increase," Macri acknowledged last week. The poverty rate was 25% at the end of 2017, the most recent figure.

The currency fell 50% since January and pushed domestic prices by reducing the purchasing power of wages.

To this escalation are added successive increases in the price of fuel and public services, previously subsidized.

Several unions have renegotiated annual increases that had been set at 15% at the beginning of the year and were overtaken by inflation.

The central labor CGT called for a 24-hour national strike on the 25th of this month, but other unions are asking to advance it and extend it under the slogan "Increase everything, less salaries."

Teachers, staff of the State and of the health are in fight plan.

"There is a great need, that is why the marches are massive," explains Lucia Quinteros in the middle of the demonstration. "We are going to do one per week and one every day if necessary, always at peace, to tell you enough of adjustment, we do not give more God of mine!

AFP

 
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