Thousands of Argentines marched on Wednesday for jobs, food and more welfare as runaway inflation undermines government efforts to raise living standards.
Demonstrations took place across the country but were centered in the capital Buenos Aires just hours before the government announced the latest inflation figures – 6.7% for the month of March – more than the lowest projections. more pessimistic.
That brought the cumulative total for the first quarter to 16.1% and put the country on track for annual inflation of around 60% for the year, analysts said.
Year over year, the March figure was 55.1%, one of the highest in the world.
Protesters gathered in the historic Plaza de Mayo square that houses the presidency with banners calling for “real work” and more support for soup kitchens, among other aid.
“It’s going badly, the economy is slipping with this government,” Mario Almada, a 60-year-old mason who works in a social cooperative and receives social assistance, told AFP.
He said his monthly income and the government grant combined were “not enough to buy food”.
Almada receives about 16,000 pesos a month ($136 at the official exchange rate) through welfare, but he said in his neighborhood of Florencio Varela, on the southern outskirts of Buenos Aires, “the money is going like water”.
“It’s starting to look a bit like the time of [former president Raúl] Alfonsín” in the 1980s, he says, citing a period of economic turbulence that led to a crisis with hyperinflation.
Prices, he added, “are rising every four or five days. The noose is tightening.”
Argentina’s economy is restarting with GDP growth of 10.3% in 2021 after three years of recession.
Unemployment fell to 7% in the last quarter of 2021 – the lowest rate in six years.
But inflation continues to rise and the poverty rate is 37%.
Curbing inflation and the budget deficit were key conditions for the IMF to agree to refinance a US$44.5 billion loan.
The government’s work is hampered by soaring inflation around the world, fueled by the war in Ukraine.
Statistics institute INDEC said on Wednesday that food prices alone rose 7.2% in March.
For education the increase was over 23%, for clothing and footwear 10.9% and for housing, water, electricity and gas 7.7%.
For 2021, the rate was 50.9% and the government aimed to limit inflation to no more than 48% in 2022.
In February, the government increased aid to around 2.4 million Argentines in the form of food stamps by 50%, which now stands at around $50 per person per month at the official rate.
This week it expanded price limits on some 1,700 consumer products and created a fund to stabilize the domestic price of wheat flour.
For Wednesday’s protesters, that’s not enough.
“Let them explain to me who can live with this,” said Lucas, another grant recipient.
Last week, several thousand people took to the streets and hundreds camped out on Avenida 9 de Julio, the capital’s main thoroughfare, demanding the same demands.