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Argentina - Violent protests over budget cuts

October 24, 2018

Protesters in Buenos Aires have clashed with police in front of Congress to protest cuts to the 2019 budget bill. Argentina's President Mauricio Macri needs those cuts as he has committed to balancing the budget.

Argentinien Protest gegen Sparmaßnahmen der Regierung
Image: Reuters/M. Acosta

Police in Argentina police fired rubber bullets, teargas and water cannon at protesters who marched Wednesday in front of Congress against the government's 2019 budget bill, which contains steep spending cuts aimed at erasing the country's fiscal deficit.

Thousands of activists led by teachers, social organizations and leftist groups opposed to President Mauricio Macri's austerity measures gathered in front of Congress. 

Small groups of protesters threw rocks, sticks and trash at police who shot rubber bullets and used metal barriers to control the crowd.

Similar riot control measures were used late last year when Congress approved cuts to Argentina's pension system.

Legislators began discussing the budget in a plenary session shortly before noon. Macri needs the budget to pass to maintain his economic adjustment plan and continue efforts to turn Argentina's recession-hit economy around.

Argentine legislators show protest signs
Argentine legistlators show their disapprovalImage: Reuters/M. Acosta

As police moved to stem the violence, lawmakers inside the capitol building argued loudly over sticking points, at times disregarding calls for order.

Macri committed to balanced budget

The budget contains sharp reductions in government spending and tax increases aimed at cutting the primary fiscal deficit from a projected 2.7 percent of gross domestic product this year to zero in 2019.

Read more: Is there a right-wing surge in South America?

Macri has committed to balancing the budget at the behest of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which signed a $57 billion standby financing agreement with the government earlier this year.

Macri went to the IMF for help after nervouseness in the market about the nation's increasing debt load caused a slide in the peso.

Analysts expect the budget to pass, but are cautious about the government's ability to implement austerity measures. Some economists are also afraid that the government may relax austerity measures ahead of the 2019 presidential election for political gain.

av/rc (AP, Reuters)

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