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Argentines stage protest against decision to seek IMF help

Saturday 26/May/2018 - 10:35 AM
Sada El Balad
edited by: Basant Ahmed
Thousands of Argentines swarmed into the capital's downtown Friday to protest the government seeking financial help from the International Monetary Fund، AP reported.

Marching on the holiday commemorating the Revolucion de Mayo، which led to Argentina's independence from Spain in 1816، demonstrators draped themselves in the white-and-sky blue national flag. They also held banners protesting high inflation and rises in fuel and transportation costs.
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Protesters snarled traffic as they blocked some of the city's busiest streets in a march that was organized by some of the country's largest unions and human rights groups and drew popular musicians، actors and other artists.

President Mauricio Macri announced earlier this month that he was starting talks with the IMF on getting a credit line to finance his government، following a sharp drop in the value of Argentina's peso.

The decision unsettled Argentines، many of whom blame the IMF for introducing policies that led to the country's economic implosion in 2001 and its record $100 billion bond default in 2002. The crisis left one of every five Argentines out of work.

Former President Cristina Fernandez said Friday that it was "a tragedy" to be asking for IMF help، in her first public comment since Macri's May 8 announcement.

Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor as president، Nestor Kirchner، renegotiated or paid off most of Argentina debt after the collapse، kept energy cheap through subsidies and dug deep into the treasury to redirect revenue to the poor through handouts.

For a few years، Argentina enjoyed fast growth fueled by Chinese demand for its agricultural commodities، but then demand waned and economic growth fell. Macri inherited myriad economic problems from Fernandez، including an inflation rate estimated at about 30 percent.

Since taking office in 2015، he has focused on cutting government spending and ending economic distortions blamed for years of spiraling consumer prices. Macri has also been credited with resolving a long dispute with creditors to return Argentina to global credit markets.

But he has faced labor protests after ordering thousands of layoffs of public workers and raising utility rates while Argentines continue to lose purchasing power amid one of the world's highest inflation rates.

"All of the policies that have been put in place since the beginning of this government are against the lower classes، the working classes and even against the middle classes،" said protester Marcos Mino. "The pressure that they (the government) are putting on us is really extreme."

A survey by pollsters D'Alessio IrolBerensztein said 75 percent of Argentines feel that seeking assistance from the IMF is a bad move. The survey of 1،077 people in early May had a margin of error of three percentage points.

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