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  • The estimated 400,000-strong rally took over the Argentine capital

    The estimated 400,000-strong rally took over the Argentine capital's main avenue, 9 de Julio, to protest austerity measures. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 February 2018

"One more march we've seen in recent times" is how Marcos Peña, chief of the cabinet of ministers, described the national demonstrations.

Argentine politicians are trying to dismiss massive protests which shut down most of Buenos Aires on Wednesday in response to two years of austerity reforms and skyrocketing inflation.

"One more march we've seen in recent times" is how Marcos Peña, chief of the cabinet of ministers, described the demonstrations and national strike which brought Buenos Aires to a near halt.

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Massive Argentine Protests Against Macri Austerity

Peña, of the ruling party Cambiemos, said during a radio interview: "The only one missing from the stage was Cristina Kirchner," referring to the former head of state and current legislator from the left-wing United Citizens party.

The marches were organized by national unions and social movements, including the Trucker Union, Workers' Central Union (CTA), Association of State Workers (ATE) and the Argentine Workers' Central Union (CGT), with a combined membership of 5 million people.

The estimated 400,000-strong rally took over the capital's main avenue, 9 de Julio, to protest the government's austerity measures, massive lay-offs, subsidy cuts and intimidation of unions. The authorities, meanwhile, insisted that only 90,000 people showed up.

Trucker Union leader Hugo Moyano is accused by the government of corruption, but says he's being persecuted for opposing President Mauricio Macri’s labor reforms, which will grossly undermine the ability of syndicates to negotiate.    

Peña told listeners that the demonstrations were to support Moyano's legal case, not to protest the government's looming 25 percent lay-offs in the public sector and the closing down of state unions across Buenos Aires.

"The massive turn-out shows the government is doing damage," said Moyano. "Sooner or later, we will strike."

Any industrial action by the Truckers Union could paralyze the transportation of goods and services throughout Argentina and the region.

CTA leader Hugo Yasky said the organized march against Macri's downsizing "is a decision by our working class... It will get bigger."

Over the past year, Argentines have been amassing to protest Macri and Cambiemos' IMF-directed measures to cut jobs, energy subsidies and social programs.

At the same time, inflation rates have averaged around 23 percent, hitting a 40 percent high in April 2016 just one year into Macri's administration.


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