Thousands of Argentines took to the streets on the nation’s independence day - July 9 - to protest the government’s extreme austerity measures and recent IMF loan.
Marchers yelled, "The homeland will not give up" and carried signs that read: "INDEPENDENCE CAN'T BE NEGOTIATED" and "NO TO THE IMF" as they symbolically marched along Buenos Aires’ main avenue - 9 de Julio - which bears the country’s date of independence.
The former governor of the Buenos Aires province, Felipe Sola told the multitudes that President Mauricio Macri’s economic plan is "creating hunger, misery, discontent in all classes, including in the middle class, where everything has been adjusted. No one can do anything anymore." He said that the government’s austerity plan ends with the signing of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan, formalized late last month.
Sola went on to say that only the government thinks the new loan, which reintroduced the IMF to Argentina after a 15-year hiatus, is a good idea. He said that’s the most "serious" problem.
The Macri administration approached the IMF in May to negotiate a last-ditch effort to salvage the country’s 23 percent inflation rate, devalued peso and overall collapsing economy.
Rita, a mom, told national media, "it’s sad that on the day of our independence we have to be demanding not to lose it."
Like the majority of Argentines, Rita remembers how the conditions on the country’s IMF loan in the late 1990s brought about the country’s 2001-2002 economic crisis. She, like most others, also associates the IMF return with government repression and a loss of national sovereignty.
"The IMF is the total closure to the decisions we can take as a people. The people chose a government to represent them. We did not choose the IMF to make the decisions," Rita concluded.
President Macri was voted in in 2015 after courting the country’s poorest promising to slash poverty and unemployment while boosting welfare programs.
After only two years in office, the administration has already slashed energy and water subsidies, and government employment. Between November 2017 and June of this year, President Macri gouged gas, water, and electric subsidies, leading to rate increases that average 1,300 percent.
According to the Buenos Aires Times, in March alone, 14,500 people lost their jobs, 9,200 of whom were in the public sector. Another 350 state-media journalists were abruptly fired in June. Spending power is down and small businesses aren’t able to stay afloat causing some 13,200 entrepreneurs to go out of business last March.
While the administration has managed to decrease poverty by 2-3 percent, the current rate sits at 29 percent, and nearly half of all Argentine children live in poverty.
Argentine actors, Carolina Papaleo and Gerardo Romano, read the Popular Proclamation of July 9, 2018, to the crowds on Monday announcing: "The foreign debt contracted by Mauricio Macri's government is illegal and illegitimate. It is meant exclusively to fill the pockets of a handful of large corporations.
"Let them pay it," read the actors, "and never come back to sacrifice the humble and exploited."
For his part, Macri said in an independence day speech in Tucuman, "We are going through a storm. We are experiencing a storm due to many circumstances. These include issues of our own management, external markets, and policies of previous governments."
The president went on to tell crowds they “must have confidence” in the government's goals and again asked "Argentines for greater sacrifices."