Thousands in Argentina march against austerity measures

Argentine unions, small business owners and activists march against austerity measures under President Mauricio Macri.

    Argentine unions, small firms and activists march near Argentina's Congress to demand changes in President Mauricio Macri's economic policies [Agustin Marcarian/Reuters]
    Argentine unions, small firms and activists march near Argentina's Congress to demand changes in President Mauricio Macri's economic policies [Agustin Marcarian/Reuters]

    Argentine unions, small business owners and activists took to the rain-drenched streets of Buenos Aires on Thursday to protest against austerity measures under President Mauricio Macri, which they blame for amplifying worker hardships and sapping growth.

    Thousands of protesters marched along roads near the city centre carrying colourful banners with slogans asking for "decent work" and "better salaries".

    One, alluding to the president's re-election bid in October, said "Bye Macri" in bold red letters.

    Protesters, beating drums and blaring horns, marched to Congress as storm clouds and heavy rains swept across the city.

    Some stopped to block a major highway at one point.

    The march, amid a recent escalation in street protests, highlighted mounting discontent in the recession-hit country with Macri, whose approval rating has tumbled this year.

    The centre-right leader has been pushing austerity measures to meet obligations under the $56.3bn bailout agreement that Argentina reached with the International Monetary Fund last year.

    Steep inflation has also hit purchasing power hard. 

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    Feeling the pinch

    The IMF-backed reforms, including subsidy cuts that have triggered higher utility rates, have contributed to growing attacks on Macri's government from political rivals, including left-leaning former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and other prominent members of the Peronist opposition party.

    Despite some signs of an upturn and an expected bumper grains harvest, Argentina's economy has been weighed down by sky-high interest rates, a weak peso and inflation running at an annual rate of more than 50 percent.

    Macri's critics blame his IMF-backed austerity programme, designed to balance the budget in part by capping public workforce salaries and cutting health and education programmes. But the government and the IMF say government spending reductions and higher taxes are needed to re-balance the economy.

    Argentines are feeling the pinch in the form of higher utility bills and weak domestic demand.

    Around a third of the country is now living below the poverty line, while homelessness is rising.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency