Update: After a severe clash between government and opposition in Congress over the pension reform bill, the Lower House president decided to call off the session.
Get ready. Traffic in downtown Buenos Aires is impossible today as unions, leftist political parties and social organizations have already begun staging roadblocks on different key intersections and marching down the streets to protest against the pension reform bill (AKA reforma previsional) that the government is hoping will be approved in Congress today.
Left-leaning organizations are already blocking their favorite intersection at the time of protesting: the corner of Callao and Corrientes. Vehicles in theory can try and go down other nearby non-blocked roads but get ready to be stuck there forever due to the large amount of people present.
Protesters began marching towards Congress at 10 AM this morning, but at the time of posting this, a security operation led by the Border Patrol is preventing them from reaching their destination. Security forces began setting fences yesterdays and more than 600 officials are currently in the building’s surroundings, tasked with guaranteeing that the voting takes place and that no protester gets near it.
Leftist parties block Corrientes and Callao. Photo via Telam
Buenos Aires City Legislator for the Leftist Front party Myriam Bregman criticized the security operation, saying “I had not seen this in a very long time, I believe since those days in 2001 [when the country basically exploded economically], with four federal forces carrying out a joint operation.”
“If the law is as good as Cambiemos argues, why do they need an operation like this?” she added.
Tension between the two camps runs high since yesterday, when Border Patrol officers forcefully prevented social organizations from setting up tents outside Congress. They intended to stay until today at 2 PM, when the voting is set to take place, as a way to protest against it.
(Protesters clash with the police yesterday during protests. Photo via Telam)
The members of the CGT umbrella union’s triumvirate have also come out to speak against the reform, and announced their intention to call for a national strike should it be approved. They assured the transportation union is willing to join their initiative – its support is always key to guarantee an effective strike – and warned “the country will be paralyzed.”
“The CGT can’t be absent when an issue as delicate as the pensions reform is on the line. It is an injustice because pensioners don’t make enough to cover their basic needs,” added triumvirate member Juan Carlos Schmid in an interview with Infobae. Union members are set to join the protests today at 2 PM. Most other unions and organizations will gather at different intersections a couple hours before to then march to Congress.
At the same time, government representatives currently inside the Congress believe they have the necessary votes to pass the pension reform bill, although by a narrow margin. Infobae reported they believe they have between 125 to 130 votes in the bag: 107 coming from Cambiemos’ deputies and the others from lawmakers who mostly answer to provincial governors, with whom the government has already negotiated their support.
However, 129 deputies must present at the beginning of the session in order to muster quorum and be able to begin the voting process.
We’ll see if that’s the case at 2 PM. In the meantime, get ready for pandemonium. And if you have to go downtown for something other than protesting or working, don’t.