BUENOS AIRES – Thousands of Argentines took to the streets on Friday to protest widespread poverty and the rising cost of living on the same day conservative President Mauricio Macri spoke at the inauguration of the 2019 legislative term.
The protesters marched down the made their way down the major thoroughfares of Buenos Aires under the watchful eyes of the numerous police deployed along the route of Macri’s motorcade.
Wearing sandwich boards emblazoned with slogans such as “Macri out now,” participants voiced disapproval of the government’s decision to sharply increase water and electric rates and impose economic austerity.
“We come out to protest the hunger-creating policy of our government and we come to protest peacefully in the streets, repudiating those rate increases and all the questions of what the government is doing to the people, imposing hunger on them, oppressing them,” a coordinator of the Santa Teresa Movement, Oscar Ramos Santillan, told EFE.
“We can no longer endure it,” the activist said.
Macri said in his speech to Congress that poverty has decreased in Argentina since he took office in December 2015, an assertion Ramos dismissed as a “fallacy.”
“That is a total fallacy, it’s a total lie. We laughed many times, when he took power he promised many things, he deceived many of us,” Ramos said. “After three years the same lie continues, the same fallacy continues, and that makes us laugh, it’s a joke, we do not believe him anymore, we know that everything he says is a lie.”
Horacio Andres Herrera of the August 22 Movement, which was involved in organizing Friday’s march, focused on the plight of workers.
“More and more factories are closing due to the economic situation that have been established going back years ago by those who govern us, who are worse all the time,” he said.
Last December, a respected research unit at Universidad Catolica Argentina released a study showing that 33.7 percent of Argentines were living below the poverty line in the third quarter of 2018, a 5.4 increase from the same period of 2017.
Purchasing power suffered as already high inflation spiked when the value of the peso began plunging in April 2018.
The currency crisis prompted the Macri government to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which agreed to provide Argentina with a $50 billion stand-by credit line on condition that Buenos Aires implement stringent budget cuts.
The return of the IMF – associated by many in Argentina with the 1998-2002 depression that saw the economy contract by 20 percent – increased the sense of grievance among government opponents.