Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Perfil

ARGENTINA | 30-04-2019 15:50

Police arrest 32 at union march against Macri government austerity, lay-offs

For the most part, protesters organised by unions tied to union kingpin Hugo Moyano marched peacefully on downtown Buenos Aires. However, several masked protesters reportedly attacked banking facilities near Congress where a police officer was also injured.

Police arrested at least 32 people on Tuesday as unions opposed to the Mauricio Macri government's austerity measures marched on Buenos Aires.

Seventeen men and three women were detained for "damages" against public property, "resisting arrest" and for causing "injuries," City police reported early in the afternoon.

More arrests followed.

A group was detained for "acts of intimidation" against public buses. Those responsible are allegedly bus drivers from a separate bus line, Police suggested.

Two of the detainees were under the age of 18, police sources told Perfil.

Buenos Aires Security Minister Marcelo D'Alessandro said City authorities "are not going to allow damage or vandalism."

For the most part, protesters organised by unions tied to union kingpin Hugo Moyano marched peacefully on downtown Buenos Aires.

However, several masked protesters reportedly attacked banking facilities near Congress where a police officer was injured.

'CAN'T PAY MY BILLS'

"I came to protest because I can't pay my bills. The government must go. It hasn't been able to resolve the country's economic problems", said Juan Arrique, a 32-year-old truck driver, speaking to AFP.

His truck drivers' union was one of the main groups calling for the protests that saw airplanes parked on the tarmac and transit buses lined up in rows at their terminal. Sea traffic was also suspended, most schools closed and many shops as well as banks were shut.

The government has downplayed the strike, which other transport unions will replicate today, despite it being a public holiday.

"There is no desire for this strike. Today, workers are caring about their jobs. It's a difficult time and they don't want to be sanctioned. Rather than a strike, we're seeing a huge protest," Production and Labour Minister Dante Sica told Radio Mitre.

For Maria Belen Blumett, a casino waitress who attended yesterday's event, workers were expressing their "rejection of what [President] Macri is doing against workers."

"People can't eat. There are so many people [that have been] laid-off", she told AFP.

PRESIDENT'S CHANCES

President Mauricio Macri's popularity has fallen in recent months, a disappointing sign for the Cambiemos leader just six months out from elections in which he hopes to win a second term.

In an effort to reduce the state deficit, the government last year launched an austerity plan that has cut services to low-income Argentines.

The measures came in exchange for a US$56-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help battle a currency crisis and soaring prices. Inflation over the last 12 months was around 55 percent, while the spending power of ordinary citizens has been in freefall.

"Take Macri, leave the dollars," read one banner in reference to the IMF loan repayments seen yesterday.

The same slogan was also scrawled on the wall of a building next to that of the US bank JP Morgan.

Unemployment is increasing, poverty now affects 32 percent of the population and 41 percent of children, while businesses lay off workers and consumption drops.

The partial strike followed a protest called by trade unions in early April which saw thousands of demonstrators march in Buenos Aires against Macri's economic policies.

-TIMES/AFP/PERFIL

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