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Inside Story Americas
What is driving Argentina's protest movement?
As thousands of Argentinians rally against government reforms, we discuss the challenges facing President Kirchner.
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2012 11:50

It was Argentina's largest anti-government demonstration in years. Up to 700,000 people flooded the capital Buenos Aires and other major cities on Thursday to protest against the policies of Cristina Kirchner, Argentina's president.

"This [movement] is much more being driven by middle - even middle upper - class groups ... It was supported by major right-leaning opposition parties ... When you were on the streets looking around, there were no party flags, there were no representatives, politicians from any of those opposition groups. Instead it appeared to be autonomously organised when actually it was fairly heavily backed by some of these right-leaning parties."

- Francesca Fiorentini, a journalist

Their grievances include violent crime, inflation and alleged corruption - concerns which have seen the president's approval rating plummet just one year after she easily won her bid for re-election. 

But Kirchner and her supporters say the protests are being organised by the wealthy elite minority and encouraged by a vociferous right-wing media.

They also point to the country's emphatic economic recovery after collapse in 2001 as proof that the country is in safe hands. 

And while the current president inspires resentment among some sections of the population, there is little support for any of Argentina's fractured opposition groups.

A recent poll said 65 per cent of Argentinians disapproved of the president's opponents.

But the scores of protesters are unhappy. Among their grievances is that President Kirchner brought in restrictions on buying US dollars.

The government says this was to prevent tax evasion and capital leaving the country.

"The people who came out didn't seem to be tools of capitalist agents or the wealthy ... They were just common Argentines and they were out there protesting ... But the thing that impacted me most of all was their chant of 'We are not afraid'... I think it shows that people are fed up with the strong-arm politics of President Cristina Kirchner."

- Peter Romero, a former US state department official

Many Argentinians want dollars to protect themselves from high inflation which the goverment says has reached 10 per cent. Some private economists say it is at least twice that high.

The protesters are also fearful of crime. And some claim Kirchner's may want to amend the country's constitution to abolish presidential term limits - something she denies.

The demonstrators are also concerned about a new media law which comes into effect in December. 

Supporters say the law will encourage diversity in the country's media industry. But critics say it is designed to diminish the influence of Kirchner's critics.

So what is driving the protests in Argentina?

To discuss this, Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Mark Weisbrot, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington DC; Peter Romero, a former US assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere Bureau at the State Department; and Francesca Fiorentini, an independent journalist and commentator.


BEHIND ARGENTINA'S PROTESTS:

  • Official figures say 100,000 people protested on Thursday; the opposition put this number at 700,000
  • Protesters concerns include crime, corruption and inflation 
  • Some protesters also accuse President Cristina Kirchner of becoming authoritarian 
  • Kirchner's supporters say protests are orchestrated by wealthy elites 
  • Her supporters also blame media groups for stoking fears 
  • Kirchner was married to former president Nestor Kirchner, who became president of Argentina in 2003
  • Kirchner was elected president of Argentina in 2007, then re-elected in 2011 
  • Kirchner says her policies have protected Argentina from financial collapse 
  • Argentina endured an economic collapse in 2001 
  • Lawmakers recently lowered voting age in Argentina from 18 to 16 
  • Critics say lowered voting age a ploy to build support for Kirchner 

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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