Buenos Aires, Argentina – On Thursday police brutally attacked protesters who had gathered in front of the Congress to oppose a law being debated in the lower Chamber of Deputies, including severe cuts to pensions, retirement payments and even social aid (amongst others, the AUH a conditional cash payments to poor families with children).

A massive march, organized by the trade unions, the left political parties, and NGOs, tried to approach Congress, where they were met by a barricade held by 900 agents of the Border Patrol.

The Border Patrol didn’t hesitate, and fired rubber bullets, tear-gas and water cannons, as the protesters started to come close to the Congress. In the two days before the vote, several protesters marched against the series of projects of the government that include: tax cuts for corporations, the reform of labour regulations to reduce the bargaining power of the workers, camouflaging the flexibilization and precariousness with the phrase “cut the labor cost”, and the decrease in public spending among other austerity reforms that the Neoliberals in power want to ensure.

During these past protests two deputies were hurt on Tuesday: Leonardo Grosso (of the political party Movimiento Evita) was bitten by a police dog, and Victoria Donda (Libres del Sur), was kicked repeatedly in the leg.

The bill, which passed the Senate last month, had been scheduled to be voted on Thursday, but the Chamber of Deputies couldn’t obtain the necessary quorum of 129 deputies to even discuss the bill and begin the voting process. Several deputies called for the postponement of the vote, amidst heated discussion between the ruling party and the opposition, the latter calling for the suspension of the session, due to the unjustified violence practiced by the Border Patrol outside of the Congress.

If passed, President Mauricio Macri’s reform will play an important part in cutting Argentina’s fiscal deficit, with expected savings of 100 billion pesos (£4.2 billion). In order to meet their expectation to cut the deficit by 4.2 per cent this year.
The bill contradicts what was stated by the government in a law that they passed last year, called “Reparación historica”, which provided that within three years a “Consejo de Sustentabilidad” should be formed in order to come up with a project to reform the retirement system. This council was never articulated and the government directly negotiated with the different Governors, and presented this bill that would change the formula used to calculate benefits for the retirees and raise the retirement age.

Currently, the retirement system guarantees its beneficiaries up to 80% of their wages to those who have contributed for 30 years, and since 2009, they receive an automatic increase every six months. The formula that the government is now proposing instead adjusts payments quarterly taking into account the official inflation index. As confusing as this may seem, the new formula involves an annual loss in the retirement minimum wage of $ 9.500 pesos1.

Police brutality has become the modus operandi of the armed forces since Macri took office in 2015, and that has since resulted in the death of two young protesters.

The first one is Santiago Maldonado, a 28 year old man who decided to join a road blockade carried out by the mapuchean community Pu Lof on the 1st of August, in Cushamen, a city in the province of Río Negro. They asked for the liberation of one of their political leaders, and they were dispersed by the border patrol, who was authorized to do so by a judicial order. A few hours later, a group of between 8 and 10 individuals, returned to the road and were met by the sheer violence of the Border Patrol that charged against them with rubber bullets, axes and rocks, violating the standard procedures. As the protesters returned to their homes in the Pu Lof community territory, the agents followed them there, and entered the premises without any kind of judicial order. Santiago Maldonado was last seen running away from the ferocious chase, and disappeared for three months, until on the 17th of October, his body was found floating in a river.

The second one is that of Rafael Nahuel, a 22 years old mapuche, who was cowardly shot in the back by the Prefectura Naval on November 25rd. On November 23rd, the Prefectura Naval entered the lands occupied by the mapuche community of Lafken Winkul Mapu, near Lago Mascardi, in the Nahuel Huapi National Park. With a juidicial ordered, Prefectura and police officers arrested several mapuches in the area, and even started a manhunt trying to detain those who escaped from the raid. During one of these persecutions, the special forces of the Prefectura Naval, the Albatros squad, shot live ammunition, and killed Rafael Nahuel.

1. 1 peso=17 US dollars

NB: This article first appeared here- https://libcom.org/news/brutal-police-attacks-protesters-buenos-aires-16122017