Argentina: Thousands take to the streets against new IMF deal

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Dozens thousands its citizens Argentina protested yesterday Saturday against her renegotiation of the debt that the government of the country is obliged to repay to International Monetary Fund, a perspective that shakes the fear of social collapse caused by structural adjustment programs in the past.

“Not in agreement with the IMF”, “the debt is due to the people, not to the IMF”, “the debt repayment is an adjustment”: banners, slogans, songs of organizations of the radical left, students, trade unions, flooded May Square, backdrop all the joys and sorrows of the country, not far from Casa Rosada, the presidential palace.

Amidst percussion, wind, smoke, barrels and smoke from the streets (the barbecues of the street vendors) in the streets, the participants of the mobilization succeeded against the IMF, but also the government of the center-left, which they accuse of agreeing to repayment of $ 44 billion by 2024. And so, that the program of further fiscal adjustment is embraced in a country where the poverty rate has already reached 40%.

“It is horrifying to see children in hospitals with bellies swollen from hunger. “In fact, this is what is happening in Argentina today!” Ania Cristina Jaime, 70, told the French Agency in a state of rage, “without a party but with a heart on the left.” “Every 8-9 years, they ‘sell’ us to the IMF (…). The only solution I see is not to pay, but to find the funds that went abroad. Let them pay! “

Throughout the week, a delegation from Argentina (the government and the central bank) met in Washington with an IMF staff. By the end of the year, the government is expected to submit to parliament a “multiannual financial framework” with the approval of the Fund.

Result of the current round of negotiations? “Wider discussions” are needed before an agreement can be reached, the IMF said in a press release released on Friday.

On the same day, even larger crowds gathered in May Square, this time made up mostly of supporters of the Peronist government, to celebrate with music the 38th anniversary of the restoration of democracy in Argentina, the end of the military dictatorship (1976- 1983).

Black sheep

President Alberto Fernandes was accompanied by former Brazilian heads of state Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (possible candidate for the presidency in 2022) and Uruguayan Jose “Pepe” Mujica. Theme of the night: nostalgia, according to Lula, for “the best time for democracy” in South America, when center-left, socialist or “Bolivarian” governments exercised power from Santiago to Caracas in the first decade of the 21st century .

It was not exactly a mystery that reference to the black sheep, the IMF, was almost mandatory in all speeches. President Fernandes was applauded when he said that “Argentina’s (structural) adjustments are a thing of the past” and that debt repayment “will not be at the expense of health, public education, wages, pensions”. Nevertheless, he took care to emphasize that “we will fulfill the obligations undertaken by others”, referring to the loan that Argentina concluded during the days of the center-right predecessor of Mauricio Macri (in 2018).

The loudest applause when the always popular Cristina Fernandes de Kirsner, head of state from 2007 to 2015, now vice president, stigmatized that the IMF “has long dictated the living conditions in Argentina”.

For Mrs. Fernandez, the Fund should have “helped us find the billions” that some “took to tax havens!” That should be one of the issues in the negotiations. “

The talks coincide with the anniversary of the “great crisis” of December 2001: the social explosion in an Argentina trapped in the confluence of capital flight and lack of liquidity after years of austerity demanded by the IMF. Riots, looting, violent incidents, at least forty deaths and a wound that has yet to heal are the legacy of that crisis.

“I remember well in 2001, the looting of the supermarket on my street corner, the world without work, the hunger,” Juan Soto, a 30-year-old worker, told a rally in May Square. “History repeats itself, you know. If an agreement is reached (with the IMF), we will have an adjustment. But who will ‘adapt’? The workers, the poor? Those coming out of the pandemic during which so many jobs were already lost? “

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