Protest against poverty and inequality turns violent in Buenos Aires

Leftist groups clash with riot police in the Argentinian capital, slamming President Mauricio Macri's free market policy.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Members of civil society organisations block traffic at the intersection of 9 de Julio and Belgrano avenues in Buenos Aires in a protest held to demand a meeting with the Minister of Social Development, Carolina Stanley on June 28, 2017.

Leftist groups on Wednesday clashed with riot police on the streets of Argentina's capital Buenos Aires, protesting the free market policies of the government.

Demonstrators accused President Mauricio Macri of stoking poverty and inequality in the South American country through his free market policy. 

 At least seven people were arrested following the clashes.

Masked protesters set fire to tyres laid out across a main street in the capital, blocking movement downtown. Riot police backed by a water cannon moved in to dislodge the barricade.

According to local media, the protesters were from a number of leftist groups in the country.

Macri has sought to push through austerity measures to get the debt-ravaged country's economy back on track. But mid-term elections in October could undo his plans.

Minimal expansion of economy

Argentina's economic activity expanded 0.6 percent in April compared with the same period the prior year, government statistics agency Indec said on Wednesday. The rate was well below the median forecast in a Reuters poll for 2.0 percent growth.

Economic activity in April was flat compared with March, Indec said. Latin America's No. 3 economy grew a cumulative 0.4 percent in the first four months of the year compared with the same period a year earlier, when Argentina was in the midst of a deep recession.

The government expects growth of around 3 percent this year, after a contraction of 2.2 percent in 2016. 

Macri has increased infrastructure spending and cut export taxes on the key farming sector to try to boost output, but a promised wave of foreign investment has been slow to arrive.

April's figure marked a deceleration from March when economic activity grew 1.3 percent year-on-year – revised upwards from the 0.8 percent rate published last month – and 1.5 percent compared with February, revised downwards from the 1.9 percent rate published last month.

The construction sector, linked in part to public works, grew 8.4 percent year-on-year in April and agricultural output grew 4.6 percent. Industrial activity fell 1.9 percent, however, while retail and wholesale commerce declined 2.2 percent as 24 percent 12-month inflation ate into consumers' purchasing power.

Indec also said on Wednesday that Argentina posted a $6.871 billion current account deficit in the first quarter of 2017, larger than the current account deficits posted during each of the four quarters of 2016.