By Miguel Lo Bianco and Claudia Martini
BUENOSAIRES – Eduardo David Rodriguez takes bags of fruit and vegetables to sell in a fresh produce market in Buenos Aires twice a week to make ends meet for his family. They barely do.
Rodriguez, like over four in ten Argentines, lives below the poverty line, a rate which has climbed during the coronavirus pandemic that exacerbated three years of economic recession in the country, once among the wealthiest in the world.
Rodriguez, 40, lives with his wife and two of their four children in a small house outside the capital. There is no bathroom, running water, or gas to cook with.
“Work here is tough, that’s the truth, but there’s no other option than to come here and bring the family back the daily bread,” he told Reuters, saying he earns about 12,000 pesos a month, equivalent to some $60.
With his wife’s income of 14,000 pesos and a state subsidy of 13,000 pesos, the monthly family income normally reaches around 39,000 pesos ($195), well short of the 67,000 pesos under which a family of four in considered in poverty in Argentina.
The government will announce the poverty rate for the first half of 2021 on Thursday, already at 42% in the country of 45 million people that is rich in natural resources from cattle and corn to natural gas, but plagued by but plagued by rampant inflation, economic mismanagement and years of cyclical debt crises.
“Sometimes we can only eat only so much. We don’t indulge in luxuries but, well, thank God we don’t starve,” said his wife Maria Eugenia Gonzalez de Rodriguez, 39, who works in a municipal cooperative clearing storm drains in the neighborhood.
“Sometimes we have enough and sometimes not.”
In his spare time, Rodriguez teaches soccer to kids and youths from poor households, so that they can aspire to a professional career that he once dreamed of as an escape from poverty.
“I love being with the boys and I come to do it without any obligation and without any salary, I do it from passion, because the truth is this is what keeps me going every day,” he said.