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ARGENTINA | 10-07-2022 09:27

Anti-government protesters take to streets on Independence Day

Protesters march to Plaza de Mayo and Casa Rosada to demonstrate against government on Independence Day.

Hundreds of opponents of Argentina's government marched through downtown Buenos Aires on Saturday on Independence Day, as two rallies coincided with the July 9 holiday.

The rally produced some striking images, underlining the anger against the government, including burning torches, a guillotine and inflatable dolls showing members of the government as prisoners.

Although the demonstration mostly passed off without major incident, tensions rose at around 7pm when a group of people began to shake the fences protecting the Casa Rosada, though the situation did not escalate.

Supporters of the main opposition coalition took the streets declaring that they were seeking to "Defend the Republic," with tensions high in the country as a financial crisis bites. 

"Argentina without Cristina," was one of the main slogans chanted by the demonstrators – a reference to Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

The vice-president, head of the Senate and twice former president between 2007 and 2015, has been at loggerheads with President Alberto Fernández over the direction of his government.

Fernández de Kirchner and allies from her wing of the ruling Frente de Todos coalition have been critical of the president and his government and seek a new economic path for the troubled administration.

The government's internal discussions are centred on how to deal with a runaway annual inflation rate that exceeds 60 percent, one of the highest in the world, and a fall in the purchasing power for workers and the middle class that led to the government's defeat in the 2021 midterm legislative elections.

The opposition mobilisation was called through social networks by activists and leaders from the opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition.

The march ended at the Plaza de Mayo, in front of the Casa Rosada. Argentina is going through a currency crisis due to exchange rate tensions caused by a sharp devaluation of the currency. The uncertainty has caused prices of basic necessities to rise by more than 20 percent over the past week.

Earlier, the famous square was also occupied by hundreds of activists from the main left-wing parties, including the Frente de Izquierda, also in opposition to the government's path.

"Today we are mobilising together with the entire left for the annulment of the agreement with the IMF and for sovereignty measures to be taken in defence of the social majorities," one of its leaders, Manuela Castañeira, told the press as he marched from the Obelisk to government house.

After Martín Guzmán's shock resignation from the Economy Ministry one week ago, economist Silvina Batakis took over as the new head of the portfolio. She has said that the government will maintain its agreement with the International Monetary Fund, though she has also said targets outlined in the deal may have to be redrawn.

Earlier this year, Argentina sealed a refinancing package with the multilateral lender that allowed it to restructure US$44.5 billion in debt contracted in 2018 during the opposition government led by then-president Mauricio Macri. Juntos por el Cambio is a successor to the coalition that Macri led upon taking office, Cambiemos. 

 

President's speech

After a week of relative silence, President Fernández marked the end of a traumatic week with a speech at the Casa Histórica in Tucumán, during which he condemned "prophets of hatreds" and called for unity across the political spectrum.

The Peronist leader, who denounced an alleged "onslaught of concentrated groups" against his government , called for Argentina to "move towards fiscal balance and stabilise the currency" as the country tackles a "complex reality" with "persistent inflationary processes."

 

Brushing aside rumours that president and vice-president are at loggerheads, the president used his speech to talk up unity, describing it as "a value that we must preserve in the most difficult moments."

"Nothing solid is built if we abandon our objectives at the first danger. History teaches us that we must fight tirelessly even when adversity confronts us," he declared. 

"With a divided people, a few scoundrels win and millions sink into marginalisation and poverty," added the president, who vowed to continue "strengthening unity."

 

– TIMES/AFP

 

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