Thousands of pot-banging, flag-waving, banner-hoisting demonstrators massed in Buenos Aires for Argentina’s largest anti-government protest in years. Common themes at the protest included the nation’s high levels of crime, corruption and inflation.
The demonstration, which lasted nearly four hours, was aimed at the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kircher. Police officials said at least 30,000 people participated, while local media reported that hundreds of thousands turned out.
Protesters angry at the nation’s current state banged pots and pans as Argentinians young and old rallied until almost midnight.
A column of demonstrators carried a 200-meter-long flag. As they marched through the city, they were greeted with noisy pans, tambourines, and honking car horns.
Protesters chanted, “We’re not afraiid!” as they swarmed into the Plaza de Mayo and surrounding area, right in front of the presidential palace.
They shouted, whistled, and held banners that read “Constitution is written with C, not K,” referring to the ‘K dictatorship’ of Fernandez de Kircher’s government.
Another sign read, “Stop the wave of Argentines killed by crime, enough with corruption and say no to the constitutional reform.”
The sign referred to a widely held fear that President Fernandez will attempt to stay in office for a third term through a constitutional reform ending presidential term limits.
The protesters rattled off a long list of complaints about the current government: The country’s soaring inflation, violent crime rates and high-profile corruption.
“I came to protest everything that I don’t like about this government and I don’t like a single thing starting with [the president’s] arrogance…they’re killing policemen like dogs, and the president doesn’t even open her mouth. This government is just a bunch of hooligans and corrupters,” 74-year-old retiree Marta Morosini told AP.
Protests took place in other cities throughout Argentina, including the major cities of Cordoba, Mendoza and La Plata.
In countries elsewhere around the world, demonstrators gathered in front of Argentinean embassies and consulates.
Around 50 angry demonstrators gathered in front of the consulate in Rome shouting,“Cristina, go away.”
In Madrid, another group of about 200 protesters braved the rain to bang pots outside the Argentinean consulate.
“In Argentina, there’s no separation of power and it cannot be considered a democracy…Cristina is not respecting the constitution. The presidency is not a blank check and she must govern for those who are for her and against her,” Marcelo Gimenez, a 40-year-old Argentinean who currently resides in Spain said.
During a speech on Thursday, Fernandez did not directly address the protests, but instead defended her government’s policies and affirmed her dedication to the job.
“Never let go, not even in the worst moments,” she said.”Because it’s in the worst moments when the true colors of a leader of a country comes out.”
Fernandez won a second term last year with 54 percent of the vote.
Her administration has been accused of alienating large sections of the middle class, and has drawn criticism for limiting imports and imposing controls on foreign currency exchanges, making it difficult for Argentines to travel abroad.