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ECONOMY | 19-04-2024 22:41

Senators raise their own pay as Argentines cope with hardship

Senators vote by a show of hands to raise their own salaries by 170%, while half of their compatriots live in poverty.

Argentines expressed anger Friday after senators voted by a show of hands to raise their own salaries by 170 percent even half of their compatriots live in poverty amid a biting economic crisis.

Following the vote, which lasted less than two minutes late Thursday, the 72 members of the Senate will earn some four million pesos (about US$4,500) a month each – almost 20 times the minimum wage, now at an all time-low of about 200,000 pesos (US$230) per month.

La Libertad Avanza senators loyal to budget-slashing President Javier Milei did not raise their hands though their presence provided the quorum for the decision to pass. They did not ask for a nominal vote – with senators called one by one – as is customary when there is no consensus.

"It's crazy. It does not correspond to the salaries we get," said clothing vendor Gabriela Quiroga, 31, on the streets of Buenos Aires, adding that "shops are not making any sales" and "more and more people are sleeping on the street."

Milei, vowing to halt Argentina's economic decline and runway inflation of 280 percent a year, has taken a number of steps to slash public spending, halting subsidies for fuel and transport and cutting tens of thousands of public service jobs.

His efforts have hit Argentines hard, with the price of bus tickets almost tripling and aid cut to thousands of soup kitchens.

Since the senators' vote became public knowledge, Milei took to Twitter to describe the lawmakers as "cynical" and "hypocritical." 

He said the senators "were exposed once again."

Economy Minister Luis Caputo described the outcome as an "embarrassment."

Luis Juez, president of the PRO bloc, allied with Milei's ruling party, did not raise his hand and said on his social networks that the increase "is inopportune and a low blow at this time."

Martín Lousteau, president of the opposition Radical Civic Union, was heavily criticised by government allies. He half-heartedly raised his hand to vote in favour, an act captured on camera. The image was quickly shared by Milei on X more than 20 times.

Lousteau, for his part, said in a radio interview that the measure had been agreed by all the senators. He adefended the increase.

"A senator was earning less than the president's tweeter; he was earning a third of [presidential spokesman] Manuel Adorni." he said.

The ruling bloc in the Senate said in a statement it would present a bill to reverse the increase, which came as Congress is debating a slew of measures proposed by Milei to slash state spending.

Earlier this week, the government announced a reversal of Milei's initial refusal to use his presidential air fleet, a decision the president himself had held up as a cost-saving measure.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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