Hundreds of demonstrators from social organisations set up a huge encampment on Avenida 9 de Julio midweek to demand greater social support for citizens.
With inflation wreaking havoc on the pockets of Argentines, a number of groups set up camp in Buenos Aires to demand the government do more to help the nation’s poorest citizens.
"Everything is going up except wages – austerity can't be tolerated any longer," read one banner pasted up by demonstrators on the doors of the Social Development Ministry.
Opposed to President Alberto Fernández’s Peronist government, the demonstrators also expressed their outright rejection of Argentina’s recent agreement with the International Monetary Fund that restructures a US$44.5-billion debt dating back to the record US$57-billion credit-line granted to the country in 2018 during the Mauricio Macri Presidency (2015-2018).
The protest sparked traffic chaos on Wednesday, which continued into the following day as part of the that complicated traffic in the centre of the capital began on Wednesday and continued through Thursday as part of a campaign organised by Unidad Piquetera, which brings together social organisations and radical left-wing groups.
"Our demands are genuine work, new quotas for the Potenciar Trabajo [subsidy programme] and regular food deliveries for community soup kitchens," the protesters said in a communiqué.
Under the Potenciar Trabajo programme, which has 1.2 million beneficiaries, the state pays half a minimum wage (around US$140 dollars at the current official exchange rate) in exchange for work in cooperatives or local municipalities.
"Four points were raised and we agreed on two: to expand and strengthen food policies and to set up management and work units to provide tools for cooperatives," Gustavo Aguilera, secretary of social policy articulation at the Social Development Ministry, told the press after a meeting with protest leaders on Thursday.
According to official data, Argentina's unemployment rate fell to seven percent in the fourth quarter of 2021, its lowest level in six years, amid the reactivation of the economy. The economy grew 10.3 percent in 2021 after three years of a deep recession aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite that improvement, poverty, when measured purely by income, still affects 37.3 percent of the population. Runaway inflation, running at just over 50 percent annually, has devastated the purchasing power of wages and social security payments.
Argentina’s minimum wage will rise to 38,940 pesos (US$355 at the official rate) in April and there are planned increases that will take it to 47,850 pesos (US$412) in December.
Many citizens, despite being formally employed, cannot cover the total basic food basket of 83,800 pesos (around US$722 dollars), which is estimated to be enough for a typical family not to be considered poor.