Thousands demonstrate on 9 de Julio avenue next to the
Obelisk of Buenos Aires. Photo by Reuters.
Hundreds of thousands of Argentines have flooded the
streets of the country's biggest cities in a broad protest
against President Cristina Fernandez's interventionist policies
and combative style.
The centre-left leader won easy re-election a year ago but
her approval ratings have slid since. Her government has
virtually banned dollar purchases and it limited imports this
year, worsening a steep economic slowdown.
High crime, inflation of roughly 25 percent a year, and a
possible bid by government allies to reform the constitution
to allow Fernandez to run for a third term are also stoking
unrest, particularly among middle-class Argentines.
"We've taken to the streets because we're sick of crime and
having our pockets picked. Inflation is killing us, our
pensions can't keep up," said Daniel Gonzalez, 70, a retired
The pot-banging protests conjured memories of the
demonstrations staged by angry savers, housewives and
students during Argentina's 2001-02 economic and political
Protesters in neighbourhoods throughout Buenos Aires waved
signs demanding freedom, transparency and an end to crime and
A spokesman for the city's Justice and Security Ministry
estimated 700,000 people were rallying in the capital.
A similar, smaller protest was staged just two months ago.
Local television showed rallies in other cities, including
Rosario, Cordoba and Salta. The demonstrations were organised
through social media and not by any one political party.
Some Argentines even took to the streets abroad with hundreds
of demonstrators gathering outside the country's consulates
in Italy, Spain and the United States.
"We're protesting against Cristina's government so she
listens to us. She's not infallible like she wants to seem.
With this arrogance we won't get anywhere, we're already
quite isolated (in the world) because of her policies," said
Pedro Dominguez, a 56-year-old doctor protesting in Buenos
Fernandez's government has angered trading partners with
import curbs and it riled Madrid when it seized control of
energy company YPF from Spain's Repsol earlier this year. The
country still has outstanding debts dating back to a
financial meltdown a decade ago.
Critics say a government drive to break up the media empire
run by Grupo Clarin is an assault on free speech. But
supporters of the anti-monopoly law that is being enforced
say officials are democratizing the airwaves.
DEARTH OF OPTIONS
Fernandez won 54 percent of votes in October 2011, largely
due to an economic boom, job growth and expanded social
programmes. Her government spends heavily to stoke high
economic growth and backs big wage hikes that tend to mirror
Several government officials have been dismissive of the
protests and accused organizers of being on the far right.
Fernandez told supporters on Wednesday (local time) that
Argentines enjoyed more freedom of speech than ever before.
"If there's a sector that is demanding certain things, they
have to stand up and say this clearly. Now, please, don't
anyone think that I'll start contradicting my own policies,"
The president's approval rating edged up to 31.6 percent in
October, up 1 percentage point from a month earlier, while
her rejection rating dipped slightly to 59.3 percent,
according to the latest poll by the Management & Fit
Other polls have given her higher approval ratings but they
also show a decline of 10 to 15 percentage points this year.
"The government and Cristina will emerge even weaker than
they were (after the protests) but the opposition will show
its impotence and its inability to channel these demands,"
said Sergio Berensztein, director of the Poliarquia political
Under the constitution, Fernandez cannot run for a third
consecutive term in 2015. Local media report her
congressional allies may try to reform the country's charter
to change this, but the government has not confirmed any such
For now, no opposition leader poses a real challenge to her
and the ruling Peronist party still has strong support in the
heavily populated working-class outskirts of Buenos Aires.
"Cristina won with 54 percent of votes and if there were an
election today, she would win again because there are no
opposition candidates," said Cesar Pacheco, a 62-year-old
shipbuilder protesting outside the presidential palace.