Thousands of Argentine public sector workers took to the streets of Buenos Aires and convened at the presidential palace Wednesday as part of a national strike to protest the neoliberal policies of President Mauricio Macri and his administration's massive layoffs of state workers.
Macri has fired approximately 21,000 state workers since the beginning of 2016, with even more layoffs expected in the coming months as government ministries continue to review contracts.
Wednesday's national strike, organized by the Association of State Workers, known as ATE, together with the Argentine Workers Union, protested the thousands of job losses, demanded better salaries and working conditions for state workers, and rejected the government's criminalization of social protest.
"If the government doesn't respond, we will continue with forceful measures," ATE President Hugo Godoy told Reuters.
Aside from Buenos Aires, marches were also held in provincial capitals.
President Macri is ideologically disposed to reducing the public sector, arguing that private investment should be the source of new employment.
During an event where he announced the elimination of retention taxes on mining, Macri said the public sector employment generated during the previous five years, under the administration of his predecessor, was “unnecessary” and a product of “clientelism.”
"We are taking part in this protest in support of the demands of tens of thousands of state workers who have suffered massive layoffs across the country and there will be more with the new wave of layoffs announced by the Ministry of Modernization" said the former presidential candidate of the Workers' Left Front, Nicolas Cano.
Vice President Gabriela Michetti has accused public sector workers of being “Kirchner militants,” referring to the supporters of the governments of the late Nestor Kirchner and his successor and wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
Wednesday's demonstrations will be an opportunity to observe the reaction of state security forces in light of a new security protocol implemented by the Macri government that now allows police to break up protests.
Critics have said the security protocol opens the door to the criminalization and repression of protests.