Mass protest one week after Argentina’s Macri takes office

Mass protest one week after Argentina’s Macri takes office

BUENOS AIRES – Agence France-Presse
Mass protest one week after Argentina’s Macri takes office

AFP Photo

Tens of thousands of protesters rallied outside Congress late Dec. 17 against President Mauricio Macri, a mere week after the conservative politician took office as Argentina’s new president.

Macri has taken a series of measures reversing the leftist policies of former president Cristina Kirchner (2007-2015), which include ending currency controls - resulting in the peso quickly loosing 30 percent of its value.

Kirchner’s Peronist bloc is especially angered by Macri’s use of a decree to fill two Supreme Court vacancies, circumventing approval in the Senate where the opposition has a majority.

Marching in the crowd was Daniel Scioli, the Kirchner-supported candidate Macri defeated in the November election with 51 to 49 percent.

“I came because it seemed to me very important to support the position of the [Peronist] bloc that institutional procedures for naming judges is respected,” Scioli said.

The rally was originally called to support a controversial news media anti-monopoly law approved under Kirchner in 2009, which Macri opposes.

“We will not allow the constitution to be violated as happened with the court justices, nor that laws are changed by decree as is the case of the media law,” warned Hector Recalde, a senior Peronist lawmaker.

Macri’s opponents said easing the limits on dollar transactions and the fixed exchange rate would hurt ordinary Argentines’ spending power.

But the new president says the currency readjustment will boost exports and the wider economy.

Argentina is in a painful economic slowdown, with inflation forecast to come in at more than 25 percent this year and more than 35 percent next year in case of a devaluation.

The International Monetary Fund forecasts that the economy will contract next year.

Analysts estimate that the price of a sample basket of basic household items has risen by up to 60 percent in recent weeks.

To boost the economy, Macri has vowed to overhaul Kirchner’s legacy of hands-on economic management, including protectionist import controls, heavy taxes on agricultural exports and an official exchange rate.