BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Angry over inflation, crime and corruption, people of all ages jammed the capital’s streets for nearly four hours to protest against President Cristina Fernandez in Argentina’s biggest anti-government demonstration in years.
In a Thursday night march organized on social media, demonstrators filled the Plaza de Mayo in front of the pink presidential palace and also crowded into the square around the city’s iconic obelisk chanting: “We’re not afraid.”
Protesters kept it peaceful, and the outpouring had the air of a family affair. Toddlers in strollers and grandparents in wheelchairs joined in the masses that marched through downtown Buenos Aires until nearly midnight.
People banged on pots, whistled and waved the Argentine flag. They held banners that read: “Stop the wave of Argentines killed by crime, enough with corruption and say no to the constitutional reform.”
Fernandez’s critics are angry over the country’s high inflation, violent crime and high-profile corruption, and many worry that the president will try to hold onto power by ending constitutional term limits.
“I came to protest everything that I don’t like about this government and I don’t like a single thing starting with (the president’s) arrogance,” said Marta Morosini, a 74-year-old retiree. “They’re killing policemen like dogs, and the president doesn’t even open her mouth. This government is just a bunch of hooligans and corrupters.”
Police officials said the crowd numbered at least 30,000, while some local media that are among Fernandez’s strongest foes estimated hundreds of thousands turned out.
Other demonstrations were held on plazas across Argentina, including in major cities like Cordoba, Mendoza and La Plata, while protesters massed outside Argentine embassies consulates from Chile to Australia.
In Rome, about 50 protesters, all Argentine expats, held a noisy protest outside the consulate on Via Veneto. Among the slogans being shouted was “Cristina, go away.”
About 200 demonstrators braved rain in Madrid to bang pots outside the Argentine consulate.
“In Argentina, there’s no separation of power and it cannot be considered a democracy,” said Marcelo Gimenez, a 40-year-old from Buenos Aires who has been living in Spain for two years. “Cristina is not respecting the constitution. The presidency is not a blank check and she must govern for those who are for her and against her.”
The protests hold deep symbolism for Argentines, who recall the country’s economic debacle of a decade ago. The “throw them all out” chants of that era’s pot-banging marches forced presidents from office and left Argentina practically ungovernable until Fernandez’s late husband, Nestor Kirchner, assumed the presidency in 2003.
“We came here because we don’t want Cristina,” said Shirley Brener, a 12-year-old student who protested in Buenos Aires with her mother, Monica, a 48-year-old school director.
The president’s supporters paid little attention to two earlier protests this year, but when it became clear the latest effort could turn out big numbers, her loyalists spoke out in her defense. They dismissed the protesters as being part of the wealthy elite or beholden to discredited opposition parties.
Fernandez didn’t directly refer to the protest in a speech Thursday, but she defended policies, saying they helped rescue Argentina from its worst economic crisis a decade ago and buoyed it during the 2009 world financial downturn.
“During boom times it’s easy to run a country but try running when it’s crumbling down,” Fernandez said while urging Argentines to support her and pledging never to give up as her late husband taught her.
“Never let go, not even in the worst moments,” she said. “Because it’s in the worst moments when the true colors of a leader of a country comes out.”
Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, a member of the opposition and a fervent Fernandez critic, praised the big protest via Twitter. “People are being heard nationwide joined by a single flag,” he said.
Polls suggest neither side has a firm grip on Argentines’ sympathies.
Fernandez easily won re-election just a year ago with 54 percent of the vote but saw her approval rating fall to 31 percent in a nationwide survey in September by the firm Management & Fit. The poll of 2,259 people, which had an error margin of about two percentage points, also said 65 percent of respondents disapproved of her opponents’ performance.
Crime is the biggest concern for many of her critics.
Newspapers and television programs provide a daily diet of stories about increasingly bold home invasion robberies, in which armed bands tie up families until victims hand over the cash that many Argentines have kept at home since the government froze savings accounts and devalued the currency in 2002. The vast majority of the crimes are never solved, while the death toll is rising.
Inflation also upsets many. The government’s much-criticized index puts inflation at about 10 percent annually, but private economists say prices are rising about three times faster than that. Real estate transactions have slowed to a standstill because of the difficulty in estimating future values, and unions that won 25 percent pay hikes only a few months ago are threatening to strike again unless the government comes up with more.
The phrase “Cristina or nothing” was stenciled on buildings surrounding the Plaza de Mayo.
Demonstrators held up signs accusing the president of arrogance. While some featured a lengthy list of demands, others simply said “basta” — enough.
Associated Press writers Michael Warren, Almudena Calatrava and Emily Schmall in Buenos Aires; Frances D’Emilio in Rome; Jorge Sainz in Madrid; and Luis Andres Henao in Santiago, Chile, contributed to this report.
More Related Stories
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Kaitlyn Hunt refuses plea offer, will go to court over high school relationship
- DHS admits "impossible" to control 3D-printed guns
- Journalists file suit against Manning trial secrecy
- Russia: Syrian regime ready to talk peace
- Report: Nearly a quarter of all Americans struggle to afford food
- Ted Cruz against the world
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- 2 men arrested for endangering commercial aircraft
- Oversized load blamed for bridge collapse
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Iran hackers aiming at U.S. energy firms
- Lawyers release data in attempt to discredit Trayvon Martin
- Anonymous rallies behind Kaitlyn Hunt
- Bridge collapse: Part of "aging infrastructure"
- Mistrial in penalty phase of Arias case
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Interstate 5 bridge collapses north of Seattle
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- UK Military: London attack victim was a "model soldier"
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11