President Nestor Kirchner of
The assemblies also discuss international issues. According to assembly organizer, Lidia Pertieria: ‘One of the rallying cries coming from our communities is “no more foreign loans”. New loans only mean more swindling and robbery by our government officials.’
The piquetereos, or picketers, are the most persistent and intransigent of the protesters. Comprised of the underclass that is suffering the brunt of the countryâ€™s unemployment rate that has officially reached as high as 20 per cent, they pour into the streets, blocking traffic, demanding jobs, government help for their families, and land to grow their own food.
Kirchner became president in May, 2003. At his inauguration he strongly criticized the neo-liberal economic policies of his predecessors, blaming their slavish adherence to the IMFâ€™s rigid structural adjustment policies for the countryâ€™s dire economic conditions. He also demanded that privatization contracts for public utilities imposed on the country be renegotiated, and declared it is the responsibility of the state to ‘introduce equality where the market excludes and abandons’.
Kirchner and the IMF have fought fiercely over the terms of new loans and the repayment of the countryâ€™s international debt. In an agreement with the IMF last year, he insisted that no more than three per cent of the budget would be used to pay down the debt. The poor and unemployed had to be a priority â€“ as well as public investment. The IMF reluctantly agreed to these terms. Since then the Argentine economy has bounced back and is on track to post an 8 per cent growth rate in 2004. Now the Fund wants to increase the country’s debt repayments, citing increased growth as a reason to siphon more money from the economy.
More critically, the IMF is trying to get a better deal for the private lenders. In 2002
Continued IMF threats have prompted policy analysts and some bureaucrats to support a complete break with the IMF â€“ exploring the possibilities of life outside of the ‘neo-liberal’ world. ‘There is more money, but not to pay off the debt,’ Kirchner has stated.
This week the Inter-American Development Bank demonstrated more flexibility than the IMF by extending a $200 million loan to
Kirchner declares: ‘We are not going to repeat the history of the past… We donâ€™t want new agreements that will frustrate us and the world. For many years we were on our knees before financial organizations and the speculative funds… Weâ€™ve had enough!’
*Roger Burbach is the director of CENSA, the Center for the Study of the
For a more extended analysis of
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