Tens of thousands of people filled the streets in Buenos Aires and other major cities in Argentina Thursday night to protest new economic policies and possible political moves by President Cristina Kirchner.
After months of increasingly strict restrictions on imports, currency exchange and credit card purchases, the spark that lit Thursday night’s protest were reports of a resolution that would change the constitution to allow Kirchner to run for a third term. Her administration has not confirmed the plan.
Protestors were noisy but peaceful, banging on pots and pans, in a so-called “cacerolazo.” The mostly leaderless movement filled the central Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires singing the national hymn and chanting “Argentina without Cristina,” “Thinking differently is democracy,” and “Enough inflation.”
Kirchner easily won reelection last October, but has seen her approval ratings slide since increasingly tight capital controls have made dollars in short supply and generated multiple unofficial exchange rates. The policies were designed to encourage saving in Argentine pesos rather than dollars, but both domestic business and international investment have suffered as people look for unofficial ways around the new rules.
Independent groups not openly affiliated with any political party began calling for the protests 20 days ago on social media, but on Thursday, the noisy presence on the street was much more significant than traffic on Facebook and Twitter.
Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri, who has had a contentious relationship with the president over issues like security and transportation, said that Kirchner should “get the message,” pointing out that the protest was “all over Argentina.”