Police in Argentina have clashed with demonstrators protesting against the government’s austerity measures, amid a 24-hour strike by labor unions that has brought the recession-hit South American country to a standstill.
Police on Thursday used tear gas and high-powered water cannon to disperse protesters in the capital city, Buenos Aires, where they had blocked a main highway.
Argentine National Gendarmerie officers had moved in to clear the blockage, but attempts to remove the protesters led to violent clashes with them. The protesters hurled rocks and wielded large sticks to resist police.
Dozens of arrests were made.
The protesters were also demanding wage increases in line with inflation, which is about 40 percent.
A one-day work stoppage is in place by teachers, bus and truck drivers, airport employees, factory workers, and the government customs agents, challenging President Mauricio Macri, who has eliminated currency and trade controls and cut government spending as part of his austerity measures.
Tens of thousands of state employees have been fired since Macri took office in 2015. A conservative, Macri had vowed to reduce spending and consumer prices after 12 years of leftist rule before him.
While Macri’s policies have led to massive protests in the country, he says the measures are needed to revive Argentina’s weak economy, attract investments, and end alleged economic failures by his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
“The situation is dramatic,” Julio Piumato, a spokesman for the labor umbrella group CGT, said. “Wealth is being concentrated in the hands of a few at the same rate that poverty is growing.”
“Urgent measures are needed to create employment. One out of every three Argentines is poor,” he added.
On Thursday, the World Economic Forum on Latin America was due to begin in Argentina, where Macri would welcome hundreds of potential investors and foreign officials.