By Nicolás Misculin
BUENOSAIRES – Tens of thousands of Argentines took to the streets of Buenos Aires on Saturday to protest over poverty and a lack of jobs amid a lengthy economic crisis that has only deepened with the coronavirus pandemic.
Organisations working with the unemployed and leftist groups led the protest that started at a church to the west of the Argentine capital 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 in the Plaza de Mayo, a massive square in front of the seat of government where protests habitually take place.
“I come on behalf of people who do not have work: my brother, my neighbors and many people who you see really struggling everywhere,” Néstor Pluis, a 41-year-old educational assistant, told Reuters.
Protests also took place in other parts of the country, including in Argentina’s second city of Cordoba and the western city of Mendoza.
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.
A total of 19 million people, 42% of Argentina’s population, was classified as living below the poverty line in the second half of 2020 and unemployment at present stands at 10.2%.
Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez said on Friday that he saw brighter days ahead, and the first rebound in the economy in three years this year with 7% growth.
“Argentina is growing, recuperating jobs and will recover income,” Fernandez pledged.
Ahead of the legislative elections in November, the government also announced on Friday a relaxation of COVID restrictions in the hope of speeding economic recovery.