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Poverty and destitution in Argentina

President Mauricio Macri assures that everything is better and “that profound changes require patience”. But he is already in the fourth year of his term, is seeking re-election, and things aren’t looking good; from unemployment to destitution and hunger to poverty. Experts think that this year will be even more difficult for him.

 

Maylín Vidal

 

In Buenos Aires poverty affects children, the elderly and families who live on the streets and have the sky as their roof, unable to pay the high living costs. At the crossroads of the popular Corrientes Avenue and Reconquista Street, for more than a month now, it has become impossible to walk along the pavement. A family has built its own house there out of cardboard, old sheets and mattresses.

In the morning, whilst some people pass by wearing suits and ties and are unaffected, others lower their gaze ‘so as not to see or feel the pain’. In this small corner there is a tent and there are some children aged between three and six outside it, their parents on broken, dirty mattresses, and three other people nearby.

Very near, in Alem, at the end of Corrientes Avenue and where the lower part of the city starts, the pictures of high-rise buildings belonging to powerful companies contrast with the family living on the pavement a few steps away from a luxury car company.

At noon, the children that have received some form of breakfast given to them by a passer-by, play with old CDs along with two women and a man.

This is the same in different areas of Buenos Aires, a postcard of poverty, destitution and the numbers have increased in recent months in the midst of a recession. Many people have lost the jobs due to the closing of factories, unable to pay for electricity and gas for example, is increasingly difficult.

President Mauricio Macri, in the fourth and final year of his term and on the path to re-election, promised to reach ‘zero poverty’, two words which are repeated again and again during his term in office. But the numbers don’t look promising.

The President himself has recognised, as he stated in September 2018, that this is a “reflection of the turbulence in recent months” and that the aim of his government will always be to reduce poverty.

“Profound changes require patience. Many are going to think that I am in a worse position than I was a few years ago or that I am having difficulties. And some are going to remind me that last year, here, I said that the worst has already happened. And they’re right”, Macri said at the opening of the new term of the ordinary sessions of Congress.

In his speech, the President is convinced that today, the nation is on the right path.

But the pictures of entire families living on the streets are becoming more and more common; they are in subway stations, outside of restaurants and other places.

According to the Argentine Catholic University (UCA), 33.6% of the urban population were living in poverty during the third quarter of last year with a jump of 5.4 points in one year, leaving a total number of 13.6 million people in this situation.

In accordance with the Observatory of Social Debt of the UCA’s evaluation, this amount has reached its highest since 2010 for a number of reasons, amongst them the socioeconomic decline associated with the currency and financial crisis along with the adjustment.

The numbers indicated at that time that 16,500 new people are living in a state of destitution and in total, 2,470,000 people with incomes less than the cost of a basic food basket.

Almost six months have passed since this evaluation. January and February of 2019 were hit with more high charges for services, with inflation, with a dollar that reached nearly 42 pesos and with increases off all kinds, above all to the basic food basket. According to figures from the city’s General Board of Statistics and Censuses, which is echoed by the website El Grito del Sur, in the last three years the number of the homeless has doubled.

If, in the last quarter of 2015 there were 100,000 people living under the poverty line, in the last quarter of last year 198,000 were recorded, 98 per cent more.

Reflecting the situation across the country, in the capital, the government implemented a number of programs and services to give primary support to people and families living on the street and at risk as well as social plans. But this is only one remedy for so many in this situation.

There have been may marches asking for a declaration of a national food emergency and a few weeks ago there was a large, country-wide march with its epicentre in the capital with the theme “Tierra, Techo y Trabajo” (“Earth, Roof and Work”). Many organisations urged the government to increase the statutory wage and to pass laws that benefit low-income sectors. (PL)

(Translated by Corrine Harries – Email: corrine.harries@ch-translations.com) – Photos: Pixabay

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