President Mauricio Macri defended his government’s pension reform bill this afternoon, saying it seeks only to benefit retirees and declaring that the violent protests and general strike in opposition to the legislation were “orchestrated.”
At a press conference from the Case Rosada, Macri told reporters that the violence had "clearly been orchestrated" and that they would be investigated. He backed the judges in charge of probing events.
"There is nothing to justify the violence [on Monday],” the president said, assuring that those who were guilty of crimes would "face justice.”
“What happened was not spontaneous, it was premeditated.”
He thanked the security forces who had “defended our institutions and democracy and said he was surprised not to have heard “more condemnation” from opposition leaders against the violence.
"There have been deputies of the nation inciting violence," he added, referring to speeches heard during the heated debate in Congress.
"In 14 hours, Kirchnerism and the Renewal Front did not offer a single bit of self-criticism," the president said, a reference to the system that had been left behind my the previous government.
The bill was approved by Congress Tuesday, after the measure passed in the lower house by a 127-117 vote after more than 12 hours of debate, much of which came as demonstrators clashed with police outside the National Congress building.
The legislation, which had already cleared the Senate, would change the formula by which pension benefits are calculated, basing them largely on inflation instead of wage growth and tax contributions. It's a key part of the economic changes pushed by Macri's government that they hope will reduce Argentina's high deficit and attract investments.
"We've created a formula that defends (retirees) from inflation and guarantees that they will be better off,” Macri said at a press conference at the presidential palace. "Our priority is to take care of the retirees."
Opposition lawmakers, union leaders and other critics complain the bill will cut pension and retirement payments as well as aid for some poor families because consumer prices are expected to be lower.
"We're sad. This law is bad," said opposition lawmaker Agustín Rossi. "We tried to impede it from passing, but we couldn't get the numbers. This harms retirees."
Tensions have risen over the last week as the government attempted to pass the bill into law. About 150 people were also injured and about 60 were arrested in clashes on Monday between police and demonstrators yesterday outside the Congress building.
Some retirees who were protesting the measure were caught up in the middle of the violence when some demonstrators hurled rocks and gasoline bombs, and riot police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
"I respect that there are people who believe that these reforms are not good," Macri said. "It would be illogical to have unanimity. But I'm asking them not to doubt the intention because I'm convinced that it will help them."
"What we have done is ensure that over the next few years retirees are defended from the worst evil they have suffered from, which is inflation," he said.