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ARGENTINA | 20-12-2021 12:57

Argentines commemorate 20th anniversary of 2001 crisis at Plaza de Mayo

December 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the so-called 'corralito,' which led to protests and riots that ended up in then-president Fernando De la Rúa's resignation from office.

Several thousand Argentines on Sunday commemorated the 20th anniversary of the country's worst-ever crisis, when the nation was plunged into social unrest following economic default.

Gathered at the Plaza de Mayo in central Buenos Aires, various organisations, including social groups, unions and radical leftist parties, held a "vigil" late into the night outside the seat of government.

In some places, participants gave speeches; elsewhere, a documentary or archive images were shown, all in memory of the 39 mostly young victims of the episode's unrest.

The commemorations will culminate Monday with a large demonstration staged by groups that are more centre-left, to coincide with the anniversary of then-president Fernando de la Rúa giving in to popular pressure, resigning and fleeing the presidential palace via helicopter. 

His brief presidency was engulfed by Argentina's worst-ever economic crisis, a severe recession that set off bank runs and deadly street riots that culminated on December 19-20, 2001.

Of the more than 30 people across the country who were killed in the looting of shops, demonstrations and clashes with police over 48 hours, five were in and around the Plaza de Mayo.

On Sunday, President Alberto Fernández received parents, friends and family of the 2001 event's victims at the presidential palace for a tribute and unveiling of a plaque with the 39 victims' names, which was affixed on entrance gates.

"All the deaths of those days were unjust, there was no justified death," Fernández said before unveiling the plaque.

The government also announced this week that a bill would soon be presented to parliament to provide compensation for victims of police repression.

"The national state institutionally to take responsibility for what happened," said the president.

Participants at the Sunday vigil also took aim at the Argentine government, which is seeking to renegotiate a US$44-billion loan from the IMF, contracted in 2018 under former president Mauricio Macri.

"Remembering 2001 cannot be just nostalgia. 2001 has to be a learning experience because we find ourselves in the same situation again. The debt is with the people," Ofelia Fernández, a legislator for the ruling Frente de Todos coalition, said from the stage.

"Here we are begging Washington for an agreement [with the IMF] which will bring us a decade of misery," said Néstor Pitrola, a trade unionist and president of the Polo Obrero workers' party.

"For 20 years, no government has been able to empower Argentina or lift it out of poverty," he said.

 

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