Tens of thousands of Argentinians have protested across the country over poverty and unemployment as an economic crisis worsened by the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit residents hard.
Organisations working with the unemployed and left-wing groups led a protest in the capital, Buenos Aires, that started at a church where thousands of pilgrims travel each year to pray at the shrine of San Cayetano, the patron saint of work, whose feast day is Saturday.
It ended at the Plaza de Mayo, an enormous square in front of the seat of government where protests usually take place.
“I come on behalf of people who do not have work: my brother, my neighbours and many people who you see really struggling everywhere,” Nestor Pluis, a 41-year-old educational assistant, told the Reuters news agency.
Protests also took place in other parts of the country, including in Argentina’s second city of Cordoba and the western city of Mendoza.
On Friday, the Argentinian government announced it would ease coronavirus restrictions after weeks of declining case and mortality figures.
“The more we vaccinate and take care of ourselves, the more we can sustain these achievements and advance in sustained and progressive openings,” President Alberto Fernandez said in a recorded television message.
Fernandez said he saw brighter days ahead. “Argentina is growing, recuperating jobs and will recover income,” the president said.
Argentina has reported just more than five million cases of COVID-19 and more than 107,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The pandemic has worsened an already difficult economic situation in the South American nation, where 42 percent of the country’s 19 million people lives below the poverty line and the unemployment stands at 10.2 percent.
Lawmaker Juan Carlos Alderete, leader of the left-wing party Corriente Clasista y Combativa, said the needs of people in some neighbourhoods were “tremendous”.
“The soup kitchens are seeing whole families coming to eat and many of the children have to be attended to by health professionals because they are malnourished,” he said.