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News > Latin America

'This Gov't Cannot be Called Democratic': Police Target Media, Unions in Argentine Budget Protests

  • Police block protesters from nearing the national house of representatives during budget protests in Buenos Aires Wednesday

    Police block protesters from nearing the national house of representatives during budget protests in Buenos Aires Wednesday | Photo: EFE

Published 25 October 2018

Over 30 people, mainly media and union members, were beaten, pinned to the ground and arrested in Buenos Aires Wednesday by brutal police forces. 

As members of Argentina’s house of representatives were throwing fists leading up to the passage of Cambiemos’ neoliberal budget, outside of the Congress building, national police forces were throwing tear gas bombs and shooting rubber bullets at protesters to repress their peaceful assembly against the 2019 financial plan that will cut public education by 23 percent and health by eight.

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Throngs of anti-IMF (International Monetary Fund) demonstrators gathered outside of Congress in Buenos Aires Wednesday to protest the budget put forth by the President Mauricio Macri government.

However, by late afternoon, the police were targeting and arresting members of the country’s left-leaning media despite being more than 15 blocks away from Congress, far from the protests.

Video footage on social media shows police kneeling on the neck of Nacho Levy, director of the Argentine publication, La Garganta, from the La Poderosa movement, and several others of his colleagues, as the police handcuffed the journalists face down on the sidewalk.

As many as 18 people were detained in these coordinated security force roundups. At least 31 people were arrested during Wednesday’s protests, including members of major national teacher unions

After Levy and the others were let go, he told local media: "This government can not be called democratic."

"This was a human hunt that has only happened twice in (our) democracy: on December 18, and today," said the editor. For several days last December the national and Buenos Aires police forces fired water cannons and tear gas at the thousands of demonstrators in opposition to the 20 percent pension cuts approved by Congress. At least 50 people were injured and 47 detained.

"This budget is only maintained by sticks, bullets, and repression,” remarked Levy as he left the Buenos Aires police station.

“This budget does not bring bread, work or peace," lamented the social leader. Levy blamed the situation on Buenos Aires Secretary of Security, Marcelo D’ Alessandro. Before being detained, Levy commented, "How are we going to survive in 2019 if there's a 77 percent lower budget for school infrastructure?”

House representative, Andres Larroque from the opposition party Front for Victory that Cristina Fernandez (de Kirchner) leads, denounced local police brutality after he was pepper sprayed in the face by them trying to leave Congress Wednesday. He told the media they were more aggressive because they "recognized" him.

"It was very noticeable that the Metropolitan Police was more aggressive than the Federal, even when we identified ourselves as legislators. Maybe in my case, they know me, and I even think that's why they were more aggressive towards me. They had very clear orders because are managed with absolute impunity," said Larroque.

Elisa Carrio, head of the Macri-led Cambiemos party, accused the Front for Victory (FPV) of “attacking democracy,” according to Argentina Analysis.

“The FPV are attacking democracy by stopping the Congress from functioning,” she said. “The crowd was dispersed with a hydrant which is absolutely legal. There was no repression, but demonstrators destroyed public goods. A lawyer should take immediate action due to the destruction,” she claimed.

Inflation in Argentina now sits at 40 percent and consumer prices rose 6.5 percent in September alone forcing more than 25 percent of the population into poverty.


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Despite Macri signing the US$50 billion IMF loan in June, the president has implemented massive austerity measures since he entered office in December 2015.

Last August he and his right-wing administration cut at least five ministries, removed energy subsidies “in a way that harmed many low-income households, and he (has) laid off tens of thousands of government workers,” co-director of CEPR, Mark Breisbottold, told teleSUR in a prior interview.

With the new budget, the president had vowed to slash US$10 billion in health, education, science, transportation, public works and culture over the next year in order to meet the conditions of the additional US$7 billion IMF loan the Argentine administration negotiated in September.  

Weisbrot says that current economic crisis, that Bloomberg is calling a recession, is caused by “the excessive, unnecessary foreign borrowing (and) draining central bank reserves in a failed attempt to prop up the peso.” The government has been selling billions of pesos in the form of short-term bonds with world-record-breaking interest rates. 

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