Two people were arrested Wednesday in Buenos Aires as leftwing groups staged a demonstration at Plaza de Mayo to commemorate another anniversary of the 2001 killings of protesters during the uprising against then-President Fernando de la Rúa who eventually resigned.
But it was also a strength test for the government of President Javier Milei ahead of the measures to be announced later in the day and which many fear would further impact Argentine consumers who have already been hit by a strong devaluation and exorbitant price increases since the new administration took over on Dec. 10.
The two arrests were for attacking police personnel, according to government sources quoted by local media after clashes between protesters and law enforcement officers.
The apprehensions were carried out as per Security Minister Patricia Bullrich's new anti-riot protocol, which provides for protesters not to hinder traffic and stick to pedestrians-only areas.
In this scenario, the popular movements claimed that in addition to standing up against Milei's economic adjustment, they were marching “in defense of the right to protest.”
“In unity, dozens of popular, union, picket, student, environmental, and human rights organizations mobilized to confront the adjustment and misery plan of (Javier) Milei and the IMF,” said the protest leaders from a stage at Plaza de Mayo.
They also dubbed the current government's plan as a declaration of war against labor, social, and democratic rights of workers and the people. They also highlighted the importance of public-funded “education and public health and science and technology.”
Milei, Bullrich, and Human Capital Minister Sandra Petovello monitored the entire process from the Federal Police headquarters.
After the mobilization, Bullrich explained that the only injured person was a member of the Buenos Aires City Police. She also insisted no civilians had been injured.
At the same time, free nationwide circulation had been guaranteed, she added. “With this new government we have begun a different way of dealing with the permanent pickets, the permanent street blockades that Argentina has been suffering for more than 20 years,” said Bullrich, who also underlined that on previous occasions rioters mistook a legitimate demand ”with an action that does nothing” and caused havoc.
“Today we also took an important step, together with the Ministry of Human Capital, in warning citizens who have social plans (allowances) ... that things have changed, there are no more leaders who own the plans, and that they should not respond to anyone, the minister went on. “People are free,” Bullrich stressed.
Presidential Spokesman Manuel Adorni said that over 8,900 telephone complaints had been received at the 134 line, which was opened for people to denounce threats from social leaders against those who refused to participate in the march.
Adorni said these people were afraid of losing their businesses as intermediaries of the state-funded social allowance mechanisms.
All the organizations that call for the march today are those that effectively act as intermediaries between the social plan and the beneficiary. We understand that behind this there is a big business. And that is why the reasons for the march are precisely the fear of losing that business, Adorni said.
The Polo Obrero manages a sizeable account, of course always extorting and mistreating the people who need the plans and who really have needs,” the spokesman added.
He also recalled that Petovello had warned that he who blocks the street does not get paid. At the same time, the government would prioritize direct allocation aid to avoid middle persons.