Thousands in Argentina protest soaring inflation

Protesters march against the adjustment policies at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on May 12, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) - Thousands of Argentinians brought central Buenos Aires to a standstill on Thursday (May 12) in another massive protest against the South American country's soaring inflation.

The "Federal march for work and salaries, and against hunger and poverty" was bolstered by thousands of people arriving from outside the capital, heeding the call from multiple unions and left-wing groups critical of centre-left President Alberto Fernandez's social policies.

Calls to protest have become more frequent since the start of the year, as the Argentine economy shows no signs of stemming its inflationary trend.

In the first four months of 2022, prices rose 23 per cent, including a 6 per cent jump in April, according to figures published on Thursday.

Having already recorded inflation of over 50 per cent in 2021, the current rate would surpass even the worst estimates of 60 per cent by the end of the year.

Protesters are also angry at the government's budgetary restraint, a necessity during debt renegotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which will see the country reduce its annual deficit from three per cent of GDP in 2021 to zero by 2025.

Argentina's left and far left have little clout at the ballot box but a great capacity to organise street protests.

They are vehemently opposed to repaying Argentina's US$44 billion (S$61 billion) IMF debt, and demand more generous social aid packages.

One of their main slogans is: "the debt is to the people."

While the administration has tried to limit expectations of more aid, splits have begun to appear in the government coalition, with Vice President Cristina Kirchner, the former president, openly criticising Fernandez.

"I don't think we will honour all the expectations, all the confidence, all the hope that has been placed in us," she said several days ago, in a veiled barb at the president.

In recent weeks, Fernandez boosted by 50 per cent food vouchers for the poor, increased pensions for those working in the informal sector, and also hiked the minimum wage from 38,940 to 45,540 Argentine pesos (S$464 to S$542).

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