Buenos Aires Times

argentina TENSION AT CONGRESS

Police release 26 detained after violent protest over 2019 budget

Opposition lawmakers and protest leaders claimed the government had planted provocateurs among the protesters to undermine the legitimacy of yesterday's event.

Thursday 25 October, 2018
A demonstrator pulls down a mobile security fence outside Congress where lawmakers discuss next year's budget.
A demonstrator pulls down a mobile security fence outside Congress where lawmakers discuss next year's budget. Foto:AP-Ana Mombello

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Argentine authorities released 26 people who were detained on Wednesday during clashes between protesters and police outside the country's Congress.

As the Lower House moved to pass the 2019 Budget, a small group of protesters set rubbish bins alight, knocked down security fences and threw stones and rocks. Police in riot gear responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Among the detainees was the editor of the leftist magazine La Garganta Poderosa, Ignacio Levy, as well as shipyard workers whose unions are currently engaged in strike activity with the government over lay-offs in that sector.

Opposition lawmakers and protest leaders claimed the government had planted provocateurs among the protesters to undermine the legitimacy of yesterday's event.

"We have identified police officers by name. Tomorrow we will lodge a criminal complaint against [national Security Minister] Patricia Bullrich and another against authorities from Buenos Aires City's Security [Ministry]," lawmaker Horacio Pietragalla, of the Kirchnerite Victory Front bloc, told Congress.

"They put provocateurs in the street. There are six people with their faces covered, all dressed in black to pretend they're anarchists," lawmaker Leopoldo Moreau added.

ANGER - INSIDE AND OUT

The angry scenes outside the legislative building were matched by tense scenes inside Congress, where lawmakers were seen screaming insults at each other.

The session debating the budget proposal in the lower house Chamber of Deputies was briefly suspended after aggressive exchanges between government officials and opposition lawmakers.

Things turned tense when lawmakers from the Victory Front (FpV) party demanded debate be halted in wake of the clashes on the streets outside. In the midst of a screaming match, the president of the lower house, Emilio Monzó, asked the heads of the blocks to leave the chamber to calm the situation.

Lawmakers later returned to the session, though minor incidents continued as they continued to debate.

The 2019 budget proposal is the most contentious so far of the Mauricio Macri administration, given the austerity implications of the stand-by loan package the government signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in June.

-TIMES/AGENCIES

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