Thousands of activists from picket groups and social organisations demonstrated on Wednesday in Buenos Aires in front of the Casa Rosada, calling for jobs, better wages and the stepping up of efforts to tackle hunger and poverty.
The ‘Marcha Federal’ – which brought together demonstrators ranging from left-wingers to dissident Peronists, to followers of Pope Francis – comes as soaring inflation continues to ravage purchasing power.
Activists taking part in the protest, which included the setting up on an impromptu campsite in front of Government House, carried signs with slogans slamming austerity and the government’s US$44.5-billion agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
The "Marcha federal piquetera" drew groups of many political colours, though many hailed from impoverished sectors of society, such as the unemployed and beneficiaries of food aid programmes.
"Unity in the streets is very important to confront austerity. What we are suffering today is adjustment, poverty, unemployment, and not being able to make ends meet. That is why unity is important, to confront this government that walks hand-in-hand with the IMF," said left-wing politician Celeste Fierro, the 37-year-old leader of the Frente de Izquierda y Trabajadores.
Carrying Argentine flags and posters carrying the images of Che Guevera, Juan Perón and Eva Perón, piquetero protesters from the impoverished suburbs and inhabitants of the capital's shantytowns arrived at the historic Plaza de Mayo and set up camp.
They first walked along the Avenida de Mayo with cartoneros (rubbish recyclers), unregistered workers joining the rally.
Demonstrators are seeking better wages and improved aid to help the less fortunate reach the basic food basket, which today costs around 200,000 pesos (approximately US$800 for four people), according to data from the INDEC national statistics bureau.
Argentina’s poverty rate stood at 39 percent at the end of last year and has likely risen. Children and adolescents are the most affected, with two out of every three children (66 percent) considered to be poor or deprived of basic rights, according to data from the international aid organisation UNICEF.
Levels of food deprivation are soaring and now affect a third of children and adolescents in the second half of 2022, according to the Observatorio de la Deuda Social, a body from the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA).
Flexibility in the office and the factory: five minutes with Volkswagen’s North America CEO
Among the groups calling for greater support and action is the Unión de Trabajadores de la Economía Popular, led by social leader Juan Grabois, which brings together vulnerable workers whose leaders identify with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church pushed by Pope Francis.
Argentina, with a population of 46 million, has long suffered from runaway inflation, which reached 8.4 percent in April. Prices have risen by 32 percent so far this year and by 108.8 percent over the last year, according to INDEC.
"A year ago, President Alberto Fernández said he was launching a war against inflation, but it seems he put up the white flag instead and has already given up,," said 32-year-old Nahuel Orellana, a member of the Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores-Teresa Vive (Socialist Workers' Movement-Teresa Vive).
The mobilisation continued into Wednesday night as activists made camp in the Plaza de Mayo. Ahead of a closing rally on Thursday night, tens of thousands of demonstrators marching from outside the capital descended on Buenos Aires, flooding Avenida 9 de Julio and sparking traffic chaos.