Tens of thousands of people marched in the nation's capital on Thursday, demanding improvements to their economic lot as Argentina battles high inflation, unemployment, growing poverty – and a burgeoning political crisis.
The expression of anger and unrest, from mostly left-wing political groups and social organisations, came as the governing coalition of President Alberto Fernández was dealt a heavy blow in PASO primaries ahead of November parliamentary elections, with its Senate majority appearing in danger.
Working-class citizens demanded jobs and increased food subsidies amid an economic crisis, worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, that has left 42 percent of the population of 45 million in poverty. The protest cut traffic in the City's Avenida 9 de Julio thoroughfare, causing traffic chaos. Many sought to highlight the rise in use of soup kitchens nationwide.
"I am not for or against the government... we want to work, we want factories," one protester, who identified herself only as Gisela, a mother of three, told AFP.
"The enormous adjustment applied by the national government and that we workers suffer has no end," read a statement from the march's organisers. "The year-on-year drop in social spending from June 2020 to July 2021 is of 53 percent, which gives an idea of the size and scope of the adjustment."
In recession since 2018, Argentina has one of the world's highest inflation rates – 32 percent from January to August – and owes the International Monetary Fund US$44 million, of which it must pay US$1.9 billion this month and another US$1.9 billion by December.
The country saw its GDP decline 9.9 percent last year.
On Thursday, the government predicted economic growth of four percent for 2022 and inflation of 33 percent.
Over the weekend, the ruling Frente de Todos coalition garnered less than 31 percent of the vote ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for November 14 to renew half the seats in the Chamber of Deputies and a third of those in the Senate. The Peronist front has a majority in the Senate, which it is eager to keep, and had been hoping to achieve the same in the lower house.
Sunday's vote was to pick candidates for the November elections, but it is also considered a barometer of people's voting intentions.
"I don’t know why they [authorities] are surprised, you can see that they don’t live in our neighbourhoods because anyone can see it: the indignation over the lack of work and education," protester Eduardo Belliboni told AFP.
Responding to the protests, Fernandez said his government owes the country some "answers."
"I have heard my people," he said. But he also insisted that "the running of the government will continue as I see fit. That is what I was elected for."