Monday, July 15, 2024

ARGENTINA | 18-12-2023 17:54

Government says it will take away welfare from protesters who block streets

Argentina's government warns against street blockades on eve of major demonstration; Human Capital Minister Sandra Pettovello warns that those who participate and receive welfare support will have it taken away from them.

President Javier Milei’s government announced Monday that welfare support will be taken away from those who participate in street blockade protests.

In remarks delivered on the eve of the first big protest of Milei’s Presidency, Human Capital Minister Sandra Pettovello said in a broadcast that picketers who attempt to block roads would be stripped of government support. 

"The only people who will not receive [welfare and aid] are those who go to the march and cut the street," warned the 55-year-old, who is leading a new government portfolio that encompasses the former ministries of Culture, Education, Labour and Social Development. 

Argentina has a large number of social welfare plans. Some of these are paid directly into the beneficiary's bank account or via a food-stamp card. Others are received through payments from social welfare organisations and NGOs.

Protesters are set to take to the streets in two days time to mark the annual demonstration commemorating the 39 people killed in protests on December 19 and 20, 2001, the year of Argentina’s worst-ever economic, social and political crisis.

Pettovello took pre-emptive aim at the organisers of the demonstrations as she warned them that “those who cut do not get paid” – repeating a line used by Milei in his December 10 inauguration speech.


‘Eliminate the middleman’

The brief two-minute video was Pettovello’s first public appearance as head of the new government portfolio. 

Addressing her remarks to “the mothers, children and families who need assistance during this difficult time for our country,” she warned that Milei’s government would soon begin auditing “all social organisations” in order to start “a process to eliminate the middleman.”

“Over the next few days, picketer organisations have called for a protest,” said the minister. “We wish to specify that even though it is a right to demonstrate, so is respecting the right of people to circulate freely to get to their jobs.”

 "We inform that all those who have promoted, instigated, organised or participated in the protests will lose the dialogue [it has] with the Human Capital Ministry," warned Pettovello.

Saying she sought to bring “calm” to those who receive state aid, she said they should know “no-one can force them to go to a demonstration with the threat of losing their benefits.”

“For this reason, we’ll suspend checks of attendance certificates issued by social organisations. We must repeat that they won’t be able to cancel your plan anymore,” Pettovello stressed. 

Pettovello went on to criticise “mothers who go to demonstrations with their children,” saying it is “unnecessary to expose them to heat and the violence of demonstrations.”

Warning of potential action against such behaviour, she warned “this situation has to end in the new Argentina.”

Poll: 75% believe people will pay for austerity

A new study by Zuban Córdoba y Asociados has assessed the general view of recent economic measures of Milei’s government, finding that 75 percent believe the cost of austerity will be paid by the people, despite the libertarian’s claims on the campaign trail that “the adjustment will be paid by the caste”.

The survey was conducted online and covered 1,400 cases, all adults over 16 years old, between December 13 and 14.

Even though three in four of those surveyed are convinced that the people will have to pay for the adjustment by the libertarian government, only 45 percent trusts it will be paid by the “political caste.”

Underlining public awareness of Argentina’s precarious economic situation, 60 percent insist that the economist’s administration needs to be given some leeway, as against 27 percent who claim they will not wait longer than three months.

In this context, a further 10 percent of those surveyed stated they would give the news government six months’ leeway, as against 32 percent who claimed they would wait for him to finish his term.

It is worth noting that 50.6 percent consider “there is light at the end of the tunnel,” unlike 39.2 who believe otherwise.

Public perception

In this same vein, regarding the perception of Milei’s government a few days after being inaugurated as President of Argentina, 48 percent claimed they trust the libertarian’s administration, whereas a further 50 percent do not. Similar percentages account for his image, where 51 percent is optimistic, and 47 percent is pessimistic.

In parallel, the head of state himself has a personal image which is 50 percent positive and 50 percent negative. Conversely, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, has improved her image in relative terms with a 53.5 percent positive image, as did Córdoba leader Juan Schiaretti, with 49.7 percent.

Regarding the impact of the recent economic measures announced by Economy Minister Luis Caputo, 50 percent rejected some of them, such as the increase in utilities and transport, the suspension of public works and taking out new loans.

Nevertheless, those surveyed were in favour of privatising state media, eliminating government advertising in media outlets for a year, reforming the labour system, reducing ministries, increasing child benefits and firing state employees.

At any rate, 80 percent believe that adjustment policies will affect them and their families, while 47 percent would still support him if electricity and transport increase, 39 percent in cases he freezes salaries in a hyperinflation context and only 33 percent if he privatises public healthcare.



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