Aug 18, 2022
Thousands of workers marched from Argentina's presidential office to its congressional building in Buenos Aires on Wednesday to demand government action to address the ongoing cost of living crisis.
"Today in Argentina it's a privilege just to eat."
For the past few weeks, mass actions organized by Argentine trade unions and leftist political parties have sought to force policymakers to raise wages and improve unemployment benefits as soaring prices and currency devaluation leave working people struggling to make ends meet.
On Wednesday, protesters brought traffic on the capital's main streets to a standstill, beating drums and calling for inflation-adjusted wage hikes and greater social spending to ameliorate worsening economic misery.
Like their counterparts in other countries around the world, ordinary Argentines are scrambling to deal with surging food and energy prices. An annual inflation rate of roughly 70% is wreaking havoc on the economy.
Inflation rose by 7.4% in July alone--the highest monthly increase since the 2001 economic collapse--and the share of the South American country's population living in poverty has climbed to 40% over the past year.
Among the leaders of Wednesday's demonstration was the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), the nation's biggest and most powerful union which brings together freight, metal, construction, health, agricultural, energy, and other workers. With three million members--nearly one out of seven employed and more than half of unionized workers in Argentina--CGT is one of the largest labor federations in the world.
"We can't continue with this level of inflation where every day we keep losing parts of our salary," said CGT leader Pablo Moyano.
Moyano called on Argentina's center-left President Alberto Fernandez to regulate prices.
In a joint statement about Wednesday's rally, CGT and the Argentine Workers' Central Union (CTA), another major labor federation, said: "Our country demands firm commitments to mitigate the social injustice that is suffocating us today... political actors must abandon petty electoral confrontation for the benefit of individual interests. Inflation has reached intolerable levels and is pulverizing the purchasing power of workers."
Ramon Luque, the head of a union representing cardboard and paper workers, toldAgence France-Presse that one of the key reasons for "the hyperinflation we've been experiencing" is Argentina's new deal with the International Monetary Fund to refinance $45 billion dollars in debt.
Orchestrated by then-President Mauricio Macri in 2018 and finalized by lawmakers this March, the restructuring agreement designed to reduce the nation's deficit mandates debt repayments and neoliberal reforms that critics say are exacerbating the crisis.
Sergio Palazzo, a lawmaker from the ruling Frente de Todos coalition who supports the protests, recently stated that "the intolerable action of the financial corporations have threatened the food rights of millions of Argentines as well as the process of reactivating the productive economy."
Dina Sanchez, secretary of the Popular Economy Workers' Union, told Agence France-Presse: "Today in Argentina it's a privilege just to eat. And so we from the unions are proposing that we move forward with the universal basic wage, an income that would at least put an end to poverty in Argentina."
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