Left-wing social organisations set up a new campsite in the Plaza de Mayo on Wednesday, as they renewed their demands for greater aid in the face of the harsh effects of runaway inflation.
The protest, which comes as Argentina’s newly empowered Economy Minister Sergio Massa draws up new policies to tackle runaway price hikes, began with a march in columns through the main avenues of downtown Buenos Aires. Thousands of demonstrators advanced on the famous square, located in front of the Casa Rosada, seat of the Presidency, and the Economy Ministry, with many setting up camp upon arrival.
The decision to spend the night in front of the Casa Rosada was taken after an assembly in which Unidad Piquetera leaders declared that their "demands were not heard" in meetings with officials from the Economy and Social Development ministries.
Among their demands, social organisations grouped together under the Unidad Piquetera banner are calling for the minimum wage to be raised from its current level of 45,540 pesos (US$325 at the official exchange rate) to 105,000 pesos (US$744), the value of a basic food basket for a typical family of four.
They are also asking for a "bonus or income reinforcement [payment] of 20,000 pesos (US$143) for retirees, single-paid workers, precarious workers and beneficiaries of the Potenciar Trabajo programme," according to a statement.
"The minister [Massa] has spoken to the markets, to the sectors of power, but has had no response to the popular sectors on how to alleviate an inflationary process that does not stop," complained left-wing Polo Obrero leader Eduardo Belliboni.
"The social situation is exploding,” he warned. “We need answers, that's why we are staying here."
In a series of tweets on Wednesday night, Massa announced a planned pension increase of 15.53 percent in September. The rise will also be applied for those receiving the universal child and pregnancy allowances, two of the many subsidies and benefits granted by the state.
In addition, the government will pay a three-month top-up of between 7,000 pesos (US$50) and 4,000 pesos (US$28.5) for those who receive one of the two minimum pension payments.
The demonstration took place on the eve of the announcement of the July inflation rate by the INDEC national statistics bureau. Experts anticipate the rise of seven percent for the month.
Prices have continued to rise following the untimely resignation of Martin Guzman. The former economy minister’s departure, which prompted further instability on the exchange markets, saw Silvina Batakis take office in his stead. She lasted less than a month in the post.
Inflation in Argentina totalled 36.2 percent in the first half of the year and some analysts are now forecasting an annual rate of 90 percent for 2022.
"The fact that the dollar is so high generates insecurity and instability, just as the government itself generates economic instability, in terms of not knowing how much a packet of rice is going to cost from one day to the next. Something as simple as milk, bread, meat, we don't know how much it's going to be tomorrow," said Juan Soto, a 30-year-old activist from the Movimiento Libres del Sur-Barrios de Pie group on Wednesday.
Manuel Orellana, 31, of the Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores Teresa Vive, criticised the government's measures because "they show that in the context of the social, economic and political crisis in the country, they want the popular sectors and workers to end up paying for a partying of the few."