Buenos Aires Times

argentina BILL INCREASES

Protesters rally against rising costs of transport, utilities

Thousands of demonstrators take to the streets to express anger at increases.

Saturday 12 January, 2019
Protesters hold up signs at a rally against the rising cost of public transport services and utilities.
Protesters hold up signs at a rally against the rising cost of public transport services and utilities. Foto:AP/NATACHA PISARENKO

Thousands protested on Thursday evening in Buenos Aires against new increases in the billing of public services in a torchlight march organised by the trade unions, leftist parties and social movements.

Under the slogan “Basta de tarifazos,” the demonstrators marched half-a-dozen blocks down Avenida de Mayo to Congress in rejection of the increases to water, electricity and gas bills recently approved by the Mauricio Macri administration.

The hikes were 38.5 to 42 percent for transport, 35 percent for gas, 55 percent for electricity and 48.5 percent for running water.

“We’re not reaching the end of the month, a worker’s wages keep going down and public services up,” commented Miguel, 27, who belongs to the tanners union.

“It’s pretty tough, we can only buy our food in instalments – paying interest rates to eat, it’s completely illogical,” he added.

Marches demanding a bill to halt the increases will be repeated every Thursday this month in a different Argentine city – the 17th in Rosario, the 24th in Mar del Plata and the last day of the month in Mendoza.

Marching with his family, Fernando said that he would keep on protesting despite not believing that the government would change its policies as “the only way since they don’t like it.”

The withdrawal of subsidies causing the cost of public services to rise comes in a context of recession with high inflation totalling 43.9 percent between January and November last year. Analysts project 27.8 percent for this year, according to a Central Bank survey. The economy shrank by an estimated 2.6 percent last year and is forecast to shed a further 1.6 percent in this electoral year.

Thousands of jobs were lost last year with unemployment reaching nine percent in the third quarter and 27.3 percent of Argentines below the poverty line according to the latest data.

Thursday’s march was preceded by a “cacerolazo” saucepan-bashing protest the previous Friday against Macri’s austerity policies.

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