Argentina’s main worker unions, social movements and human rights groups have planned a massive protest in Buenos Aires to oppose President Mauricio Macri’s economic policies, layoffs, the recent pension reforms, judicial persecution of social leaders, and other intended labor reforms.
A series of actions and mobilizations against the austerity measures started on Feb. 15.
The various groups, including the General Confederation of Labor (3 million members) and the Argentine Workers’ Central Union (1.5 million members) and the Association of State Workers (roughly 250,000 members) will arrive downtown at noon on Wednesday.
Transport union leader Hugo Moyano, will address the crowd. The union called Camioneros (or truckers) has roughly 200,000 members and is reported to have the capacity to paralyze the country. Moyano is being prosecuted for money laundering and illicit enrichment allegations, charges he denies arguing its part of the government’s persecution of social and opposition leaders.
Así se ven las cosas cuando los trabajadores y trabajadoras salimos a la calle y decimos BASTA de ajuste y de exclusión. Basta de despidos, basta de tarifazos, basta de persecución. Es hora de que Mauricio Macri nos escuche. #21F #LaUnidadEsElCamino pic.twitter.com/haquset19p— Daniel Catalano (@DanielCatalano_) February 21, 2018
Workers in the banking sector have also joined the struggle.
On Monday they started a 48-hour strike to demand the adjustment of their salaries to the rising inflation, a provision included in their existing contracts that has been ignored by employers who offered a nine percent wage increase which does not match the roughly 20 percent consumer price inflation. The offer made by their employers has been supported by Macri’s Labor Ministry.
According to the general secretary of the La Bancaria workers union, Sergio Palazzo, the Central Bank itself is saying that inflation is 19.4%. "If they [banks] pay 19.4% with a retroactive clause on the first day of the agreement... we sign," he said.
Support for the march exceeds unions. University students, professors and scientists have joined to protest cutbacks in their sectors and to “defend public university.”
Human rights groups have adhered and called people to the streets. Hebe de Bonafini, leader of the Mothers o Plaza de Mayo Association reiterated the group's participation in the march: “We will march for all of us, we are in a hand-to-hand fight with the government that besieges us.”
Opposition parties, who rejected the controversial reform, among them former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s Front for Victory announced via Twitter they will march from Congress at 1 p.m. in “defense of jobs, free collective bargaining committees, and against Macri’s government’s austerity.”
Macri’s government and mainstream media have attempted to discredit the march by attacking its credibility and intercepting buses taking protesters to Buenos Aires.
Social media on Tuesday was a showcase of denunciations against Argentina’s media “attempt to change the true motive for the march,” after an audio of an America Channel journalist telling cameramen they had to get images of protesters drinkings and creation turmoil, “the 21st we have to prove that truckers are all drunks.”
“Even if this trash program, all America Channel, TN, Clarin, Nacion and all the hegemonic communication change the true motive for the march. You cannot prevent the trembling of 9 de Julio this 21F against a model that betrays our Homeland. We will return,” posted an Argentine in support of free education and a “sovereign science.”
People have uploaded videos showing how the Argentine police are stopping buses on their way to the march in Buenos Aires and conducting searches.
“Look at what this search of one the buses going to the demonstration of #21F is via @MartinFaciano,” one user wrote.
Tensions between popular sectors and the government have been on a steady rise since the Argentine Congress approved pension Macri’s proposed pensions reforms in December. Now a key issue is the proposed labor reforms criticized for eroding workers' rights by generalizing temporary work, making it easier for companies to fire workers, and lowering contributions to the social security system.
Pablo Micheli, Secretary General of the Argentine Workers’ Central Union vowed on Tuesday “if there is no response from the government we will probably call for a national strike in March.”