Photographer: Eitan Abramovich/AFP via Getty Images
Argentine Congress Resumes Pension Debate With Rioting OutsideBy
Debate was temporarily suspended as violence outside escalated
More than 50 police injured as clashes continue outside
Argentina’s lower house resumed a debate on changes to the pension system as police contained a riot outside Congress that at one point threatened to overwhelm them.
Security forces repelled rock-throwing protesters using rubber bullets, tear gas and water canons in the most violent clashes seen since President Mauricio Macri took office two years ago. Television images showed police being peppered with rocks and Molotov cocktails as hundreds of protesters attempted to approach the country’s legislature. Injured protesters and police were shown being carried away for treatment. More than 50 police had been injured, said Congressman Mario Negri, an ally of Macri.
After temporarily suspending the session to consult with Macri’s government, lower house President Emilio Monzo said the debate should continue. Protesters retreated from the square outside Congress but there were still sporadic clashes in other parts of downtown Buenos Aires, including on the iconic 9 de Julio avenue. Lawmakers decided to suspend a vote on the reform last week amid similar scenes of turmoil outside Congress.
Macri is rushing to pass bills before the summer recess to take advantage of momentum gained from winning more seats in October mid-term elections. Critics have argued that the bill proposed by Macri’s Cambiemos coalition threatens to reduce payments to pensioners. Macri’s government is trying to find ways to close a primary fiscal deficit of 4.6 percent of gross domestic product that he’s financing with debt issuance of about $30 billion per year.
The bill, part of a broader package of reforms, modifies the way periodical increases are calculated by shifting to a methodology that primarily tracks inflation, rather than private sector wage growth or social security contributions.