Argentines stop traffic as thousands strike against government

Planes are parked at Jorge Newbery airport in Buenos Aires during a partial strike that shut the airport as well as other businesses in a protest against government economic policies. (AFP pic)

BUENOS AIRES: Tens of thousands of Argentines demonstrated Tuesday in a partial strike that grounded airplanes and shut banks and other businesses to protest the economic policies of President Mauricio Macri.

“I came here to protest because I can’t manage on my salary. The government has to go. It hasn’t managed to sort out the economic situation,” said Juan Arrique, a 32-year-old trucker demonstrating in Buenos Aires.

The truck drivers’ union was one of the main groups calling for the protests that saw airplanes parked on the tarmac and transit buses lined up in rows at their terminal.

Sea traffic was also suspended, most schools closed and many shops as well as banks were shut.

Macri’s popularity has fallen in recent months, a disappointing sign for the president just six months out from elections in which he hopes to win a second term.

In an effort to reduce the state deficit, the government last year launched an austerity plan that has cut services to low-income Argentines.

The measures came in exchange for a US$56 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to help the South American country battle its currency crisis and soaring prices.

Inflation over the last 12 months was around 55%, while the spending power of ordinary citizens has been in freefall.

“Take Macri, leave the dollars,” read one banner in reference to the IMF loan repayments.

The same slogan was also scrawled on the wall of a building next to that of the US bank JP Morgan.

Unemployment is increasing, poverty now affects 32% of the population and 41% of children, while businesses lay off workers and consumption drops.

The partial strike followed a protest called by trade unions in early April which saw thousands of demonstrators march in Buenos Aires against Macri’s economic policies.