Argentines march, pray to help alleviate “suffocating” inflation

By Veronica Dalto

Buenos Aires, Aug 7 (EFE).- Social and political organizations on Sunday participated in the traditional yearly St. Cayetano march in Buenos Aires in honor of the patron saint of bread and labor and which on this occasion comes amid Argentina’s complicated economic scenario of “suffocating” inflation, salary devaluation and high poverty figures.

Social organizations gathered Sunday morning in the capital’s Liniers neighborhood, near the sanctuary of St. Cayetano, where each August countless members of the faithful honor the Italian saint by camping out for several days around the church so that they can enter it on Aug. 7 and ask their benefactor for work or thank him for what they believe he has provided to them over the past year.

This year, the event comes after the church has opened its doors for the first time after two years of coronavirus shutdown.

Buenos Aires Archbishop Mario Poli, who is also the cardinal primate of Argentina, presided over the Mass at the church, where he warned that bread “is becoming (more expensive) due to the suffocating inflation” besetting Argentina, which is “causing misery” among the public, going on to exhort the faithful to show “brotherly attitudes of solidarity” with one another that will “allow Argentina to be rebuilt.”

Meanwhile, the members of assorted social organizations marched to downtown Buenos Aires with the aim of “fighting” for bread, land, housing and work and to “push for” a law to create a framework for the so-called “popular economy” with proposals such as a universal salary for all and access to land, according to the Union of Workers of the Popular Economy (UTEP), which convened the march.

The social organizations who marched are linked to the government and have been taking to the streets for less than a week after the new economy minister, Sergio Massa, took office and announced measures that did not fully address their demands within the context of inflation of more than 90 percent forecast for this year, more than 40 percent of Argentines living in poverty and severe macroeconomic imbalances.

“Given the agenda of the sector … that fights for particular interests to the detriment of the majority,” UTEP took to the streets to “impose” its “agenda that fights for the interests and the needs” of those on the underside of the national economy, the organization said.

The demands to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable also come within the context of an unemployment rate in Argentina of just 7 percent during the first quarter of this year.

“In Argentina, what we have are bad jobs,” the president of the Argentina Social Development Institute (Idesa), Jorge Colina, told EFE, given that “the unemployment rate is relatively low, in the single digits, but the informal economy stands at 50 percent (of the labor force),” that is to say those who work in the shadow economy and for their own account, rather than for an employer.

“Half the people are in the informal economy, they have work but it’s badly paid and precarious,” he said.

With those badly paid jobs, Argentines are confronting inflation that amounted to 64 percent in June and that is what’s “driving investment away,” without which “formal jobs, good productivity, cannot be created,” Colina said, adding that “The informal economy is the escape valve for unemployment.”

He said that “The poor are people who are working in the informal economy, who are working hard, but it’s not enough to get them out of poverty.”

Given this scenario, the vulnerable workers receive three types of social aid – the so-called Universal Children’s Stipend, the food card and the social plans, which are available to informal workers or people who are not looking for work – Colina said.

The members of the social organizations who are administering those social plans financed by the state are being questioned by both lawmakers and the public and some of them were among those marching on Sunday from the St. Cayetano church.

In fact, Massa is pushing for an audit of the social plans and training programs that help people get out of the informal economy and return to formal employment.

EFE vd/eat/bp

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