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ARGENTINA | 19-12-2019 12:32

First protest against new government, sparked by recovery package

Pro-Macri demonstrators protest against pension freezes and tax hikes on exports and foreign expenditures.

Around 500 people gathered in front of Congress Wednesday to protest against the new Peronist government led by Alberto Fernández.

Their specific grievance, according to the organisers, was the emergency economic package the Fernández administration has presented to lawmakers, eight days after assuming office. 

"They are asking for sacrifice from everyone without giving them anything. During the campaign, they said they'd raise pensions 20 percent and now they're freezing them," said one retired woman named Nelly told the AFP news agency. "This can't be." 

The government announced it will suspend for 180 days the automatic weekly adjustment to pension payments. It will do so by decree, while giving retirees two bonds of 5,000 pesos (US$80) in their stead.

Demonstrators also protested against the so-called 30 percent "tourism tax" on purchases in overseas currency, as well as the price hike on exporting agricultural goods. It could reach as much as 33 percent on soy. 

Using social media to organise themselves, they brought white banners and shouted "Si, se puede" ["yes we can"], the anthem of former president Mauricio Macri during his electoral campaign. 

"It was very sad and worrisome to learn that Alberto Fernández had won," said Aura Marina Rio Flores, one of the protest organisers, who said they collectively represented the "41 percent" who voted for Macri. 

Fernández won in the first round with 48 percent, avoiding a run-off, on October 27 and he assumed the presidency on December 10 with the promise to take action to reactivate the economy stuck in a recession. 

Argentina's economy will close with a 3.1 percent contraction, inflation around 55 percent, poverty near 40 percent, unemployment at 10.4 percent and a currency devaluation of 40 percent.  

– TIMES/AFP

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