Argetina's President Mauricio Macri enforced a 1997 decree to cut subsidies for people with disabilities, generating harsh critcism against the government and its austerity measures affecting a range of social programs.
In total, 83,133 pensions have been eliminated or temporarily suspended between January and June, according to the Argentine newspaper Pagina 12. Those affected have reported that they weren't given prior warning and that most of them became aware of the cuts when they wanted to receive their pensions.
Also, the government stopped giving new disability certificates for the past year, and another 180,000 requests are still pending approval, according to Argentina's Clarin newspaper.
After criticism, the government said the decision was not based on an attempt to boost public accounts, but rather to purge the registry, claiming that not all recipients of the benefit fulfilled the requirements.
Requirements include that the recipient can't own a car, which in the case of some disabled people may be the only viable form of transportation, and that their partners can't make more than US$1,250 a month, just above the poverty line for a familiy in the South American country.
"It is a serious mistake what they are doing, they invoke a resolution that establishes an assistance only in cases of 'extreme poverty,' which is contradicted by international treaties and especially with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that has a constitutional hierarchy since 2014 in Argentina," said lawmaker Gabriela Troiano, vice president of the Commission on Disability.
The Ministry of Social Development brought back Decree 432/97, introduced under President Carlos Menem 20 years ago but never applied.
The minimum for a disability pension is around US$250 — about half of the minimum wage. The 2010 census reported that 5.1 million people in Argentina have disabilities, which is 12.9 percent of the population.
"My 9-year-old nephew was taken away from his pension for his disability. His parents are fragile and can not even talk," Gabriela Yocco said to Politica Argentina.
Paradoxically, Macri's government has two members who use a wheelchair, Vice President Gabriela Michetti and Labor Minister Jorge Triaca.
In March, the Catholic University of Argentina released a study revealing that President Macri’s administration has pushed 1.5 million people into poverty since taking office in December 2015. Argentina also faces an inflation rate that exceeded 40 percent in 2016 and accumulated 9.1 percent in the first quarter of this year.
During the presidencies of Nestor Kirchner and later his wife Cristina Fernandez, the number of beneficiaries of the disability pension grew from 350,000 to 1.6 million between 2003 and 2016.