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The Argentine Congress approves pension reform amid serious riots

The Argentine Congress approves pension reform amid serious riots

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The Argentine Congress approves pension reform amid serious riots

Argentina confirmed once again that it is country of Latin America where it is more difficult to carry out unpopular reforms. The Congress of this country needed more than 17 hours to debate and finally approve, in midst of a huge political scandal, controversial pension reform promoted by President Mauricio MACRI. It finally left by 128 votes in favour and 116 against, thanks to support of some peronists. Macri achieved second attempt, after last Thursday session was suspended amid serious riots in street.

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This time clashes of police with thousands of protesters at gates of Congress and n throughout center were even more serious, but Macri gave order to follow session and managed to be approved already in morning of following day , after a tense dawn with Cacerolazos throughout city and an atmosphere of massive protest and strong violence that was not lived since 2001, when crisis of playpen ended with 38 dead and President Fernando de la Rúa resigned and left pink house in Helicópt Ero. With that image in memory, Macri gave a gesture of authority and showed that he can take controversial law forward and control country.

For hours, opposition Kirchner demanded government to suspend session while ally of Macri Lita Carrió spoke of "coup d'etat" when protesters approached door of Congress. They were about to arrive, but local police asked for reinforcements to national and repression was very hard until y managed to regain control of square.

"They have No shame to take away those who have less"

Mar Centenera, Buenos Aires

"We'll all be retired," No to pension cut "," enough to swindle retirees, "could be read in some banners of tens of thousands of people that this Monday went to streets of Buenos Aires to reject reform of Retirement system Promoted by Mauricio Macri. "This reform is not going to happen, let's all go to general strike", "Oh oh Oh, you're a thief, MACRI, you're a Thief", sang columns of protesters on way to Congress, where members vote today bill. But his messages were overshadowed by violence unleashed at head of mobilization, in middle of square in front of Congress.

The police held under ir shields chuckings and firecrackers launched by protesters against m for a little over an hour. The tension erupted as government had number of legislators enough to discuss reform. In front of stones, police began to repress with hydrant tanks, tear gas and rubber bullets. The police advance did nothing but heat up mood and square became scene of a pitched battle, while ambulances went and returned with wounded and air became unbreathable.

Almost two hours after onset of riots, much of peaceful mobilization seemed alien to what occurred hundreds of meters above and collapse of mobile networks The most repeated question was: "and inside? Has session been suspended? " The disappointment was drawn on ir faces when y knew that deputies kept debate. "They have No shame to take away those who have least. It raised price of everything and now y want to cut salary, "lamented Josefina Snead, retired of 84 years. Close to her, Marisa Parra, of 70, complained that y have reduced number of drugs included in Social security card and its price has been shot "up to 200% in two years".

With passing of hours, violence also extended to nearby streets and numerous participants of march, frightened and affected by gases, opted to retire, at least for a few hours. "The gases made her vomit, we're leaving because she got really ugly, but we're going to go back," said Emilia, a 21-year-old girl, who walked away from re while holding a friend in back.

The day of Fury left 162 wounded, among m 88 policemen who suffered for hours a rain of stones transmitted live by dozens of cameras. With controversial reform, which changes formula to update pensions and will lose purchasing power to retirees in a country with 25% inflation, government aims to save 60 billion pesos (2.85 billion euros).

Last week, riot scandal and tension within Congress forced to adjourn. This time government learned lesson and changed on two fronts. First, he sought more support from parliamentarians, with a pact with some Peronist governors and a commitment to give pensioners an extra pay that would soften loss of purchasing power. And n he gave orders to police to resist without forcing brutal repression. Still, riots grew and situation became more untenable every minute. "Stop this Madness", asked deputies Kirchner to President of Congress, Emilio Monzó, determined to go ahead to demonstrate that a demonstration can not prevent work of a Congress in which MACRI has managed to braid an unstable majority with The support of some peronists.

In midst of chaos were also attacked with extreme violence some journalists, like chronicler of TN Julio Bazán, who suffered all kinds of blows in back and escaped being lynched when he could flee by subway. The footage of his lynching attempt was especially dramatic. Terror and chaos removed people from center, which became a battle scenario with less traffic than on a Sunday.

The session in Congress has been result of a studied political strategy, deployed on several fronts at same time. The failure of Thursday, in which government did not get quorum to start session and gendarmerie repressed with gases and rubber bullets to demonstrators outside Congress, forced Macri to pact with Peronism votes and to change security scheme.

This time, change of strategy was evident. Dozens of demonstrators threw stones and thunder bombs at policemen who resisted for more than an hour behind ir acrylic shields before responding with gas bombs and rubber balls. The order has been to endure as much as possible to avoid Thursday's postcards. While head of protest was solved with violence, most combative left and social movement parties cut off main accesses to city, especially bridges that cross river to south and highways that arrive from north and West, and held pickets in main avenues. The mobilization in street was added a general strike of General Confederation of Labor (CGT), most powerful Peronist central in country, a decision that ended truce y had so far with government. The strike started at noon on Monday and did not reach start of transport, a strategy to facilitate mobilization.

The retirement reform is a great challenge for MACRI, because of rejection that generates among Argentines any change that may result in a decline in income. The moods are not best for change, as has become apparent in street. The official proposal does not point to structural changes, but to way in which update of assets is calculated in a country with second highest inflation in Latin America, after Venezuela. The krichnerismo devised an equation that took into account increase in revenues in system and rise in prices with updates twice a year. The Macrismo aims to change that formula by anor that defines percentage of increase according to rise of formal wages and inflation, with quarterly updates. The problem has been that account was negative for retirees. According to experts ' calculations, new index will give a rise of 5.7%, compared to 14% of current formula.

The official argument is that it is a matter of time before new system finally "splices" with new, that is to say that in long run rises will be similar and will stabilize as inflation lowers, as government expects. To compensate for initial loss and after legislative failure of last week, Macri offered to deputies more hesitant that State contributes in March of 5 billion of pesos (294 million of dollars) to distribute among nine million retirees. The bond has been key to unlock votes that MACRI needs in deputies, but did not convince opposition, who promised to keep pulse against reform.


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