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Argentines protest in push for 'food emergency' declaration

Since President Mauricio Macri came to power in 2015, electricity bills have gone up 2.1% and gas 3%

Picture: Pixabay.com

BUENOS AIRES - Thousands took to the streets in 50 Argentine cities and towns Wednesday demanding that the government declare a "food emergency" and put an end to suffocating price increases.

"We are losing work, food, education, housing... it's desperation that is emerging among our people," said Osvaldo Ulacio (60) as he marched in the capital Buenos Aires.

"They have left us no other tool than to come out in the streets to fight for our rights," added 29-year-old Diego Quintero.

Since President Mauricio Macri came to power in 2015, electricity bills have gone up 2.1% and gas 3%. The government blamed the increase on the removal of significant subsidies in place under the previous administration.

"In the neighbourhoods, hunger has come back... it's the worst since the crisis in 2001," said Daniel Menendez, one of the protest leaders in Buenos Aires, referring to the year of a major financial crash.

"The crisis is dramatic with falling wages, factories and businesses closing, and soup kitchens full of people," said Juan Carlos Alderete, another leader.

Argentina was gripped by an economic crisis last year that forced Macri to agree to a $56 billion bailout loan with the IMF.

It was sparked by a fall in confidence in the currency, with the peso losing more than half its value against the dollar last year, while inflation finished 2018 at 47.6%.

The country entered recession in December after the statistics bureau revealed the economy had diminished during the third quarter of 2018, the second quarter in a row it had done so.

The International Monetary Fund predicts that GDP will fall by 2.6% this year.

This October, the South American country will go to the polls to elect a new president.

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