Argentina has joined Brazil, Chile and Peru as the newest Latin American country to rebel against its government. Three days prior to the party primaries, set for this Sunday, thousands took the streets to protest against the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The demonstration, which was called through social media, drew multitudes into the biggest avenues of Buenos Aires, including some representatives from political parties.
Despite the attendance, leaders of the movement see it as just the beginning. They are calling for a “cacerolazo,” a mass banging of pots and pans, a traditional form of protest in Latin America, during the election Sunday.
The protests were also held in mourning for the explosion in Rosario on Tuesday, a gas blast in an apartment building that resulted in 13 deaths, many injuries and eight missing. All political parties suspended their meetings in observance and urged a postponement of the demonstrations out of respect for the victims.
Some politicians who went to Rosario to give condolences supported the protest movement through Twitter. Congressional candidate Elisa Carrió, of the center-left coalition Unen, tweeted that she was sorry not to take part in the demonstration. Her opponents in her parties' primaries, Rodolfo Terragno and Ricardo Gil Lavedra, agreed with her, saying that the protests did not violate the spirit of national mourning.
But despite the wide support and attendance at the protests, organizers lamented that it had not been as strong as previous public movements in April and November 2012. Argentinean news agency Clarín pointed that out that this does not mean that Kirchner will take the lead in Sunday’s primaries. The agency predicted that her center-right coalition Frente para la Victoria (Front for Victory) will get the most votes, but more due to the fragmentation of the opposition than its own merits.
The demonstrations focused their demands in the deeply weakened economy, which has been a point of contention for months due to Kirchner's refusal to acknowledge the problems. The government has been insisting that inflation is under control, but international analysts place it at 25 percent.
Protesters also asked for the end of the dollarization of Argentina, which for the last four decades has used U.S. currency for real estate transactions and saving accounts, and, in the opinion of many, has harmed their national currency, the Argentinean peso.
“People are just tired, tired of the government’s lies,” said student Arturo Feldman, who took part in the protests.
Signs all over Buenos Aires read “Enough insecurity,” “Cristina, get hearing aids,” and “Lies,” together with chants of “Argentina, better without Cristina.” A key issue, according to organizers, is the possibility that Kirchner could push through changes to the constitution to let her seek re-election.
The president acknowledged the movement, noting that Argentina is a democracy where people are free to express their opinions.
“Let everyone really say what they think and what they want for the country. Nobody is going to be offended,” she wrote on her Facebook page.