BUENOS AIRES – Thousands of Argentinians raised national flags and took to the streets on foot and in vehicle convoys on its Independence Day to protest against Alberto Fernandez’s government on Thursday.
“New normality = Misery” read a large sky blue-and-white flag that led protesters in front of the Obelisk, in the center of capital Buenos Aires, with banners criticizing the government and calling for “freedom” and “justice.”
The protesters later marched to Casa Rosada, the government headquarters in the historic Plaza de Mayo.
The demonstrations were replicated in various neighborhoods of the city and in the towns of the urban surrounds, known as the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires (AMBA), despite the strict quarantine in the area until July 17, as it is the main focus of community coronavirus transmission and people can only move around it with a special permit given to essential workers.
There were also major protests in front of the presidential residence in the Buenos Aires town of Olivos, where a crowd gathered and hundreds of cars blasted their horns, and in the cities of Cordoba, Rosario, Santa Fe and Mendoza, among others.
The protests took place just hours after the president sent a conciliatory message in the morning during the Argentine Independence Day event and asked the population to leave behind “hatred and divisions” to “unite in a common destiny” and overcome the problems faced by the nation.
“No society realizes its destiny in the midst of insults, divisions and fundamentally having hatred as a common denominator. I came here to end serial haters,” said Fernandez in a video conference event in which the governors of the 24 districts participated.
The president, who will have been in office for seven months on Friday, stressed that when the pandemic broke out last March, the entire country agreed “that the lives of the people had to be preserved.”
Confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic began on March 20 in Argentina and became more flexible after some weeks in much of the country, except in the AMBA and other specific regions where case numbers grew despite the strong impact that this measure has had on the already battered national economy, in recession for more than two years.
At the Obelisk, citizen Eduardo Hughes told EFE that the demonstration expresses “discontent with the prolongation of the quarantine and with the way it is being fought or prevented. If it continues like this it seems like it will be eternal and increasingly worse, and then there is also discontent with the K (Kirchnerists).”
Tensions were raised during the central protest in the capital, when demonstrators attacked the C5N news channel van and its journalists, considering them close to the ruling party.
These protests, summoned by opposition groups through social networks, took place after the first on June 20, Flag Day, rejecting a government proposal to intervene and expropriate soy giant Vicentin, one of the main agro-export companies in the country that is going through a bankruptcy process for a debt estimated at about $1.4 billion.
“We are in the middle of a demonstration, I still do not know very well in favor of what or against what. Generally we Argentines tend to have a position of being very against something and we protest in a very tremendous way and I think that makes the crack get wider instead of uniting us as a society,” said Gustavo Farias, a citizen who was passing through the protest zone.
“This was not a good time to go out to protest. We are in the midst of a pandemic, there is a very important focus of coronavirus in this city and it is crazy that so many people came.”
Meanwhile, in the Santa Fe city of Rosario, 300 kilometers north of Buenos Aires, there was a protest in the morning in favor of the government’s proposal to nationalize Vicentin and in defense of jobs in that company.