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  • 36.4 percent of the population is living below the poverty line, equivalent to 16 million people according to the official estimate.

    36.4 percent of the population is living below the poverty line, equivalent to 16 million people according to the official estimate. | Photo: Barrios de Pie/Twitter

Published 1 November 2019

It was the first demonstration in Buenos Aires since last Sunday’s election, when incumbent President Mauricio Macri lost to center-left candidate Alberto Fernandez.

Activists marched in Buenos Aires on Thursday to demand that Argentina’s outgoing conservative government act on lawmakers’ vote last month to renew a 17-year-old emergency food law.

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Enacted in 2002 as Argentines are suffering from Depression-level unemployment and poverty after a financial collapse and a series of neoliberal economic reforms, the food emergency law was reauthorized every few years until last December.

The renewal of the law mandates the creation of a national nutrition and food program and an increase of at least 50 percent in government spending to counter hunger.

Argentina’s congressional budget office estimated that the required additional appropriations will amount to 10 billion pesos (US$172 million) this year.

The emergency food law also gives Cabinet ministers the power to redirect funds budgeted for other purposes to dealing with hunger.

“Yesterday it was exactly one month since the food emergency law was sanctioned and we see no results from that,” Silvia Saravia, national coordinator of Barrios de Pie (Neighborhoods Stand Up), told Efe at the march.

Her group and other grassroots organizations demand that Macri, whose term ends Dec. 10, start the process of complying with the law.

Sources at the Social Development Ministry declined to tell EFE whether they were implementing the law and if so, how the funds were being disbursed.

“In Argentina, there is a transition to a newly elected government, but that won’t happen for 40 days. And when we’re talking about a food emergency we’re saying that hunger can’t wait, poverty can’t wait,” Saravia said.

She said Barrios de Pie and other groups saw Fernandez’s election victory as positive and that they were confident he would fulfill his campaign promises to reduce poverty, which now affects more than a third of the population.

Saravia also blamed Macri for creating the current “unsustainable” economic situation in Argentina.

Argentina’s economy has been in crisis ever since President Macri signed a multibillion-dollar IMF deal, forcing the country to adopt neoliberal economic reforms. Since then the country has experienced runaway inflation, rising unemployment, and negative growth.

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