Congress of Argentina Approves the Reform of the Pensions

Argentina confirmed once again that it is the country in Latin America where it is more difficult to carry out unpopular reforms. The Congress of this country needed more than 17 hours to debate and finally approve, in the midst of a huge political scandal, the controversial pension reform promoted by President Mauricio Macri.
It finally came out with 128 votes in favor and 116 against, thanks to the support of some Peronists. Macri succeeded in the second attempt after the session last Thursday was suspended in the midst of serious disturbances in the street.
This time the police clashes with thousands of demonstrators at the gates of Congress and then throughout the center were even more serious, but Macri gave the order to continue the session and got it approved in the morning of the next day, after a tense early morning with throughout the city and an atmosphere of massive protest and strong violence that was not lived since 2001.
When the crisis of the corralito ended with 38 dead and President Fernando de la Rúa resigned and left the Casa Rosada in a helicopter. With that image in his memory, Macri gave a gesture of authority and showed that he can take the controversial law forward and control the country.
“All that violence was clearly orchestrated,” Macri said Tuesday during a press conference at the Casa Rosada. Before, he had met with his ministers to analyze the political impact of the day of violence. “I am surprised that I have not heard more condemnation from opposition leaders that our police officers are being attacked in such a way, that they are Argentines and have their families.” Where is the sense that some gentlemen organized for evil and violence assaulted I thank the police for the work of yesterday and Thursday in defending democracy, “he added.
For hours, the Kirchnerist opposition demanded that the government suspend the session while the ally of Macri Lilita Carrió spoke of a “coup d’état” when the demonstrators approached the door of the Congress. They were on the verge of arriving, but the local police requested reinforcements to the national one and the repression was very hard until they managed to recover the control of the place.
The day of fury left 162 wounded, among them 88 police officers who suffered for hours a rain of stones transmitted live by dozens of cameras. With the controversial reform, which changes the formula to update pensions and will lose purchasing power to retirees in a country with 25% inflation, the Government intends to save 60,000 million pesos (2,850 million euros).
Last week, the scandal of the riots and the tension within the Congress forced to lift the session. This time the Government learned the lesson and changed on two fronts. First, it sought more support from parliamentarians, with a pact with some Peronist governors and a commitment to give pensioners extra pay that would soften the loss of purchasing power.
And later, he gave orders to the police to resist without forcing a brutal repression. Even so, the riots grew and the situation became more unsustainable every minute. “Stop this madness,” demanded the Kirchner deputies to the president of the Congress, Emilio Monzó, determined to go forward to demonstrate that a demonstration can not prevent the work of a Congress in which Macri has managed to twist an unstable majority with the support of some Peronists.
In the midst of the chaos, some journalists were also attacked with extreme violence, such as TN chronicler Julio Bazán, who suffered all kinds of blows to the back and escaped being lynched when he was able to flee the metro. The images of his attempted lynching were especially dramatic. Terror and chaos drove people away from the center, which became a battleground with less traffic than a Sunday.
The session in Congress has been the result of a studied political strategy, deployed on several fronts at the same time. The failure on Thursday, in which the Government did not get a quorum to start the session and the gendarmerie repressed rubber and rubber bullets to protesters outside Congress, forced Macri to agree with Peronism the votes and change the security scheme.
This time, the change in strategy was evident. Dozens of protesters threw stones and roar bombs at policemen who resisted for more than an hour behind their acrylic shields before responding with gas bombs and rubber balls.
The order has been to endure everything possible to avoid the postcards on Thursday. While the head of the protest was resolved with violence, the most combative leftist parties and social movements cut the main accesses to the city, especially the bridges that cross the river to the south and the highways that arrive from the north and west, and they made pickets in the main avenues.
To the mobilization in the street, a general strike of the General Confederation of the Work (CGT) was added to him, the most powerful Peronist power station in the country, a decision that put an end to the truce that they maintained until now with the Government. The strike started at noon on Monday, followed on Tuesday and did not reach transport at the start, a strategy to facilitate the mobilization.
The pension reform is a great challenge for Macri, for the rejection that generates among the Argentineans any change that can suppose a descent of the income. The mood is not the best for changes, as has been evident in the street.
The official proposal does not point to structural changes, but to the way in which the updating of salaries is calculated in a country with the second highest inflation in Latin America, after Venezuela. The devised an equation that took into account the increase of the income in the system and the rise of prices with updates twice a year.
The tries to change that formula by another one that defines the percentage of increase according to the rise of the formal wages and the inflation, with quarterly updates. The problem has been that the account was negative for retirees.
The official argument is that it is a matter of time before the new system finally “joins” with the new one, that is to say that in the long term the increases will be similar and will stabilize as inflation decreases, as expected by the Government.
To compensate for the initial loss and after the legislative failure of last week, Macri offered to the deputies more hesitant than the State contribution in March of 5,000 million pesos (294 million dollars) to distribute among nine million retirees. The bonus has been key to unblocking the votes that Macri needs in Deputies, but he did not convince the opposition, which promised to maintain the pulse against the reform.