To shouts of "Out with the Fund” and “No to paying the debt," thousands of people are flooding the streets of Argentina to underline their opposition to a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The rally is an attempt to pressure the Alberto Fernández government, which is seeking to reschedule a debt of US$44 billion.
Leftist parties, trade unions, social organisations and students throngoutside the Casa Rosada in Plaza de Mayo. Posters and slogans are everywhere: "No to paying the debt, out with the FMI," "Paying the debt is austerity" and "The debt is to the people."
To the gathered crowds, the lead demonstrators call upon the government to disown a debt which they consider "illegitimate and fraudulent."
In a proclamation read out in front of the seat of government, the left convokes "a broad front against the agreement with the IMF," calling on the government to use that money instead "to improve wages and increase the health, education and housing budgets."
Last Friday, in a Plaza de Mayo full of people backing him, President Fernández ratified that he would take on the payment of the debt to the IMF but promised to do so without any fiscal austerity "compromising growth."
Fernández was then accompanied by his Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and former presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Brazil) and José Mujica (Uruguay), all of whom showed their support.
The IMF indicated in a communiqué last week that "there had been advances" towards an agreement in technical meetings with an Argentine mission which had travelled to Washington the previous week to negotiate the conditions to refinance the loan of US$44 billion extended by the IMF to the centre-right government of Mauricio Macri in 2018.
‘We just can’t take it anymore’
The current agreement with the IMF obliges the payment of over US$19 billion both next year and in 2023, followed by almost US$5 billion in 2024.
Argentina, which fell into recession in 2018, has some of the highest inflation in the world (41.8 percent in the first 10 months of this year) with over 40 percent of a population of 45 million below the poverty line.
"We just can’t take it anymore," says Emilse Icandri, 26. She cycled to the anti-IMF demonstration with the tool of her trade for making home deliveries, like hundreds of youngsters in precarious jobs.
"We have neither salaries nor rights and we know that the austerity measures are linked to this country’s place in the world. If the government makes a pact with the Fund, that money has to come from somewhere and it will be paid at the cost of the sweat of the workers," she maintained.
Bolivian-born Rosmary Castro, 68, agrees. Under her broad-brimmed hat to protect her from the scorching Buenos Aires sun, she affirms: "The Fund was always an enemy of the people. The Latin American people is tired of suffering. It wasn’t us who took on this debt so we’re not going to pay it."
Chanting and drumming, a mostly youthful caravan thousands strong entered Plaza de Mayo with posters against an agreement.
"To pay the debt the government will have to make adjustments and these will be felt in low-income neighbourhoods," maintains Elías Chino, 30, who came from the southern Greater Buenos Aires district of Lomas de Zamora, where he assures, "people can no longer buy food, the prices are out of this world."
In his opinion, an agreement with the IMF will only bring "more hardships for the poor when we are still recovering from the economic blow of the [Covid-19] pandemic."
"When did the wealthy classes ever pay the price of austerity? Never," he concludes before returning to the march, which, he promises, "will not be the last."
by Sonia Avalos, AFP