Tens of thousands march for jobs in Argentina

Demonstrators march to protest against unemployment, food insecurity and lack of resources, in Buenos Aires, Argentina September 16, 2021. — Reuters pic
Demonstrators march to protest against unemployment, food insecurity and lack of resources, in Buenos Aires, Argentina September 16, 2021. — Reuters pic

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BUENOS AIRES, Sept 17 — Tens of thousands of people marched in Buenos Aires Thursday, demanding improvements to their economic lot as Argentina battles high inflation, unemployment and growing poverty.

The expression of public anger came as the governing coalition of President Alberto Fernandez was dealt a heavy blow in primaries ahead of November parliamentary elections, with its Senate majority appearing in danger.

Working-class Argentines demanded jobs and increased food subsidies amid an economic crisis, worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, that has left 42 per cent of the population of 45 million in poverty.

“I am not for or against the government... we want to work, we want factories,” one protester, who identified herself only as Gisela, a mother of three, told AFP.

In recession since 2018, Argentina has one of the world’s highest inflation rates — 32 per cent from January to August — and owes the International Monetary Fund US$44 million (RM183 million) of which it must pay US$1.9 billion this month and another US$1.9 billion by December.

The country saw its GDP decline 9.9 per cent last year.

On Thursday, the government predicted economic growth of four per cent for 2022 and inflation of 33 per cent.

Over the weekend, the ruling Frente de Todos center-left coalition garnered less than 31 per cent of the vote ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for November 14 to renew half the seats in the Chamber of Deputies and a third of those in the Senate.

The alliance has a majority in the Senate, which it is eager to keep, and had been hoping to achieve the same in the lower house. 

Sunday’s vote was to pick candidates for the November elections, but it is also considered a barometer of people’s voting intentions.

“I don’t know why they (authorities) are surprised, you can see that they don’t live in our neighborhoods because anyone can see it: the indignation over the lack of work and education,” protester Eduardo Belliboni told AFP.

Responding to the protests, Fernandez said his government owes the country some “answers.”

“I have heard my people,” he said. But he also insisted that “the running of the government will continue as I see fit. That is what I was elected for.”

On Wednesday, five cabinet ministers offered to step down after the poor showing, but Fernandez rejected the gesture. — AFP

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