Protests in Argentina continue as officials resign amid food rationing and looting

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Groups of protesters marched through Plaza de Mayo square in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, on July 28, led by professional organizers or ‘piqueteros’, demanding more social plans and a universal basic income from the centre-right government. left of the country.

The protesters demanded a minimum monthly income allowance of 100,000 pesos, which is equivalent to $758.

Other administrative reshuffles also took place last week after President Alberto Fernandez reportedly sacked the country’s new economy minister, Silvina Batakis, on July 27 after just a few weeks in office.

Batakis replaced Martin Guzman, who resigned from the same position on July 2.

The speaker of the lower house of congress, Sergio Massa, was quickly appointed to the post after Fernandez impeached Batakis.

Massa is currently Minister of Economy, Agriculture and Productive Development.

“I will devote all my energy to solving the problems, knowing that this is the best service I can render to the country,” Massa said in a Publish on Twitter.

Former economy minister Julian Dominguez resigned last week, July 29. This came on the heels of the presidential adviser and secretary for strategic affairs, Gustavo Beliz, who resigned on July 28.

Thus, in less than 30 days, four members of Argentina’s top cabinet have either resigned or been relieved of their duties.

Beliz’s resignation comes at a critical time for the politically divided administration. He was one of the officials closest to Fernandez and took on different roles, including heading the economic and social council.

Since Fernandez took office in 2020, 17 cabinet members have resigned.

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez delivers a speech alongside Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 1, 2022. (Matias Baglietto/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, many Argentines are struggling to access basic necessities to survive due to soaring inflation, which hit 60% in July.

The looting of a supermarket in the town of Rawson, in the province of San Juan, took place in broad daylight on the weekend of July 30.

A large group of individuals entered the Chango Mas store, taking over and looting while trapping 20 store employees inside. The employees were eventually rescued by local police, according to a supermarket spokesperson.

Law enforcement arrested 36 people involved in the looting incident.

Inflation aside, much of the recent panic over commodities was sparked by the government’s authorization to ration food in grocery stores across the country.

The measure was originally introduced in late March, giving markets the ability to ration food supplies to try to avoid shortages.

Since then, inflation has skyrocketed, leaving shelves empty and long lines in some stores to buy everyday items like eggs, flour and bread.

Items on sale no longer have price tags as they literally change from hour to hour. In other words, the price of a dozen eggs at 8 a.m. will not necessarily be the same at noon.

And US dollars are the preferred method of payment.

Epoch Times Photo
A man stands inside a store without electricity during the blackout, in Buenos Aires, Argentina in June. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Tomas F. Cuesta)

Argentines have stepped up to use the dollar as a life raft against inflation since the pandemic began in 2020. Some experts believe this could be a short-term strategy for the country’s economic downfall.

“Initially, dollarization would have a very positive impact, reducing the rate of inflation. Argentina is practically out of money,” political analyst Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat told The Epoch Times.

The continued devaluation of the Argentine peso and dwindling hard currency reserves underscore the national crisis. Compounded by the government’s inability to pay its foreign debt and heavy taxes crippling the agricultural sector, some experts have noticed similarities between Sri Lanka’s crisis and Argentina’s brutal downward spiral.

The Argentine peso traded at 106.3 to the US$1 in January this year, but fell to 131.2 at the end of July.

Boronat notes that while using dollars in the short term can alleviate some of the inflationary pressure, there needs to be a plan for the future.

“It’s essential…to generate the incentives to tackle the structural problems of the economy. Basically, it is high and inefficient public spending and a rampant budget deficit,” he explained.

“As we know, the deficit is financed by money printing because the country no longer has [international] credit and the tax burden is very high.

Boronat’s words echo what countless other analysts and economists have said for years: Mismanaged finances and spending have left a hole that no recent administration has been able to extricate.

Some legislators recognize the need for a revised spending program.

During his short stint as economy minister, Batakis told investors the country must pay its debts and mentioned cuts in public spending.

Subsidy cuts in the energy sector began in June.

Yet the cries of protesters demanding more government money continue to be heard in the streets. Videos of protests from last week show protesters calling for a similar social plan in Cuba.

Fernandez is crushed under the weight of “bad economic policy and bad planning”, according to Boronat.

“This is compounded by his desire both to make Argentina a world premier nation, but at the same time to become a partner and defender of the dictatorships in Cuba and China, and of the Russian Federation under Putin. “

autumn spredemann

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Autumn is a South American-based reporter who primarily covers Latin American issues for The Epoch Times.

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