BEAVERTON, Oregon — Argentina contends with a historic increase in poverty driven by an ongoing economic recession that has only deepened with the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, protests in Argentina have begun as Argentines take to the streets to express their discontent with the government’s handling of the twin crises of the pandemic and recession.
Unfortunately, the ongoing economic crisis that has led to protests in Argentina was not initially started by the pandemic. The Argentine economy has been on a downward spiral for years. In 2018 Argentina had to take out a $57 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. Earlier this year, the government was in talks to renegotiate with the IMF after Argentina defaulted to private creditors in 2020.
Poverty in Argentina has spiked throughout the pandemic, with the poverty rate reaching between 46% and 47%. It is essential to note that poverty was already high in Argentina as about 35% of the country was below the poverty line before the pandemic.
Argentina’s relatively high rate of poverty assistance is funded by financial measures which drive up both inflation and poverty. Essentially, the more the government tries to alleviate poverty, the more the situation stays the same.
Impact of the Pandemic
The pandemic has been a critical driver for the ongoing protests in Argentina. Argentines have been driven to desperate economic activities to make ends meet, as many have been forced to scavenge on the streets. During 2020 the country was able to curtail the spread of COVID-19 to a degree, but it came at a tremendous economic cost.
The pandemic has cost many Argentines their livelihoods as well. Over 3 million jobs were lost by the fall of 2020, according to NBC. Additionally, the social services of the Argentine government have been undercut by the government attempting to pay off over $60 billion in foreign debt.
Inflation and economic recession hamstrung Argentina’s ability to bear the economic brunt of the pandemic. “Before the pandemic, 8 million Argentines received food assistance. Now it is 10 million, in a population of about 45 million people,” according to VOA. Food prices remain too high for many Argentines. Many who work in informal jobs have to go to soup kitchens to get enough food to get by despite being able to continue to work.
Poverty among children in Argentina is also troubling. A study from the NGO Haciendo Camino from late 2020 indicates that “40% of children in Argentina suffer from malnutrition, while 54% live in overcrowded conditions.” Many of these children live in homes without drinking water and unreliable healthcare.
The ongoing economic crisis in Argentina has placed an enormous strain on those services available to impoverished children and these services cannot meet the rising demand.
NGOs such as Haciendo Camino are doing the best they can. They are seeking sponsors willing to fund the monthly healthcare costs of impoverished children. All of these issues have unsurprisingly driven protests in Argentina as Argentines demand change.
Protests and Upcoming Election
In recent months protestors in Argentina have gathered in the tens of thousands to protest the government’s handling of the ongoing crisis. These protests have not been limited to just the capital. They have occurred in cities across the country, according to Al Jazeera.
Many feel they cannot continue as the situation has continued to deteriorate. The most recent protests are interacting with the upcoming elections this fall as organizations are seeking to use popular mobilization to set an agenda of social support ahead of the elections.
The overall number of protests in Argentina has increased this year “dramatically as during the first six months of 2021 there were 2,474 social protests in Argentina, compared with 1,541 during the same period last year,” according to La Prensa Latina.
The government has sought to address the economic crisis by alleviating COVID-19 restrictions ahead of elections this fall. Additionally, President Hernandez points to successes in dealing with the troubling situation as Argentina’s economy has grown 7% this year.
The political context of the upcoming elections has become important regarding poverty. President Fernandez wants to reduce poverty as “many of the party’s supporters live in the poor areas around Buenos Aires,” according to VOA. These protests could have a significant impact on the upcoming elections this fall.
The economic situation in Argentina has been in decline for several years and this has accelerated with the pandemic. As a result, many Argentines have been put in desperate circumstances as they do their best to manage this difficult time of pervasive poverty and have taken to the streets. Protests in Argentina also come at a critical time as Argentines go to the polls this fall, with many Argentines discontent with the government’s handling of the crisis.
– Coulter Layden