Buenos Aires Times

argentina PROTESTS AND TENSION

Clashes outside Congress and insults inside as lawmakers debate budget

Angry scenes outside the legislative building matched by tense scenes inside Congress, where lawmakers are seen screaming insults.

Wednesday 24 October, 2018
Protesters clash with police officers outside Congress.
Protesters clash with police officers outside Congress. Foto:NA/DAMIAN DOPACIO

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Protesters clashed with police officers outside the national Congress building this afternoon, as lawmakers inside debated the government's 2019 budget proposal.

A small group of militants, many of whom had their faces covered, set rubbish bins alight, before knocking down security fences and throwing stones and rocks at protesters.

Police officers in riot gear responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators as tensions rose. Later water cannons were used to disperse youths.

The Plaza del Congreso was ultimately cleared, after peaceful demonstrators from social movements, unions and political groupings withdrew from the area.

The violence outside sparked unsuccessful calls from lawmakers inside the chamber to suspend the session. Opposition deputy Victoria Donda told local TV channels that "the repression continues."

Meanwhile, peaceful protesters – made up of social movements, unions and other political opposition groupings – shut down Avenida 9 de Julio as they marched from the capital's famous avenue to Congress. Unions and social groups called for huge demonstrations in rejection of the government's proposals.

Protesters and rain had already brought traffic to a near halt in some parts of Buenos Aires City on Wednesday morning and the chaos continued as the day continued. 

The angry scenes outside the legislative building were matched by tense scenes inside Congress, where lawmakers were seen screaming insults at each other.

The session debating the budget proposal in the lower house Chamber of Deputies was briefly suspended after aggressive exchanges between government officials and opposition lawmakers.

Things turned tense when lawmakers from the Victory Front (FpV) party demanded debate be halted in wake of the clashes on the streets outside. In the midst of a screaming match, the president of the lower house, Emilio Monzó, asked the heads of the blocks to leave the chamber to calm the situation.

Lawmakers later returned to the session, though minor incidents continued as they continued to debate.

The 2019 budget proposal is the most contentious so far of the Mauricio Macri administration, given the austerity implications of the stand-by loan package the government signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in June.

The government secured its passage at committee level on Tuesdy, wining quorum from the Budget and Interior committee, with 23 coalition votes as well as those of Martín Llaryora (Córdoba), Juan José Bahillo (Entre Ríos), Jorge Franco (Misiones), Elda Pértile (Chaco) and Nora Adbala de Matarazzo (Santiago del Estero).

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