Left-wing groups and social organisations mobilised to stage a massive march through the centre of Buenos Aires on Wednesday, blocking traffic on the Avenida 9 de Julio thoroughfare as they demanded improved aid to combat rising poverty in Argentina.
In the capital, columns of protesters set up from different parts of the city, sparking traffic chaos as they converged on the Social Development Ministry. The protesters were marshalled closely by security forces and the City Police, though they also briefly cut the Pueyrredón Bridge.
The rally, which took place at around noon and was replicated in several provincial capitals across the country, saw a host of organisations and left-wing political parties combine to demonstrate in large numbers, among them Polo Obrero, MAR, PTS, Bloque Piquetero and the MST.
The protest comes just a few days after the appointment of Juan Zabaleta as the new head of the portfolio. The incoming official had asked organisations not to cut streets with demonstrations, saying he welcomed dialogue, but his request went unheeded.
Activists attending the march held up banners calling on the government to do more to tackle poverty. Other demands include an increase in social support programmes, more jobs, improved pensions, greater funding for soup kitchens and housing programmes, among others.
"The piquetero movement has been demanding work for 20 years. When there was work, the movement almost disappeared because people went to work, and it is good for that to happen. That is what we want to happen, but with these economic policies, and with the opposition that we have, we are going to hell, " Polo Obrero leader Eduardo Belliboni told Radio Rivadavia in a live interview.
Last week, activists from the Tupac Amaru social movement had demonstrated, blocking traffic on the Pueyrredón Bridge between Avellaneda with the City.
As well as in Buenos Aires, demonstrations also took place on Wednesday in the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro, Corrientes, Chubut, Santiago del Estero, Santa Cruz, Tucumán and San Juan.
Poverty already affects just under half of Argentines, according to an unofficial state multidimensional index including factors such as housing, employment, health and education. At the end of last year 49.6 percent of the population or some 22.7 million people were found to be below the poverty line on at least two counts, as measured by the Consejo de Coordinación de Políticas Sociales (which functions under the Presidential Office). The index was 28.8 percent in the first half of 2019 with an estimated 10 million people slipping into poverty during the pandemic.
The most recent official figure published by INDEC statistics bureau measured poverty at 42.4 percent for the first quarter of this year with City Hall data giving 26.5 percent poverty (or 817,000 people) for the Federal Capital in the same period.