Tens of thousands of Argentines marched through Buenos Aires on Thursday carrying torches, in the first of a series of planned protests against President Mauricio Macri’s austerity programme and the soaring cost of public services.
Macri slashed subsidies for public utilities and other services to reduce the country’s chronic fiscal deficit, pushing electricity and gas rates up more 2,000% since the start of his term, according to estimates by local media.
Rates are expected to increase even more this year.
“People can’t make ends meet. All the measures taken by the government go against workers,” Pablo Moyano, a leader of a union of truck drivers, said during the protest.
Weekly demonstrations are planned through early February, increasing pressure on Macri to solve the country’s economic crisis ahead of a presidential election late this year.
Last year, when the economy contracted, inflation neared 50% and the peso lost close to 50% of its value, Macri reached an unpopular deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $57bn lifeline in exchange for a commitment to cut the deficit.
The protesters on Thursday, who witnesses estimated numbered at least 20,000 people, carried effigies of Macri and signs that read “Enough of the Macri/IMF austerity programme” as they marched past the city’s obelisk monument toward Congress.
A union of truck drivers and a federation of workers’ unions organised Thursday’s protest action.
Members of leftist political parties and independent Argentines have joined in.
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