Demonstrators denounce IMF debt and austerity measures linked to economic crisis, says Argentinian president.

On May 18, Argentine President Alberto Fernandez led protests in Buenos Aires in response to mounting tensions with financial institutions. The country faces nearly 109% inflation and a declining dollar reserve, prompting activists to rally against the International Monetary Fund (IMF). South American grain producers have a history of tension with the IMF. The IMF previously agreed to a $57 billion program with a Washington-based group to stem the economic crisis under former Conservative leader Mauricio Macri in 2018. However, this failed and was superseded by a new $44 billion deal last year.

A severe drought hit Argentina’s biggest source of dollar income, its grain exports, heightening tensions and forcing the two countries to return to the negotiating table to review the deal. Buenos Aires wants faster payments and easier economic targets. President Fernandez tweeted on Thursday, citing a new government audit report that concluded the original deal was not passed without the necessary impact studies. Mr Fernandez had previously criticized the original agreement and called for an investigation “with all the weight of the law in mind”.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the powerful but divisive vice president and former two-term president, criticized the original deal. Macri and the IMF have defended the original deal as necessary to restore economic stability in Argentina. Critics of the current administration accuse the government of printing money to fund state spending, causing inflation and weakening the peso.

Thousands of Argentines marched through the streets of Buenos Aires on Thursday to protest against the difficult economic situation and the IMF, which many blamed for austerity measures that exacerbated Argentina’s worst economic crisis in two decades. The protesters defended government subsidies, as many women who receive the Universal Child Benefit are also at risk with poverty levels rising to around 40%. Two meals a day are guaranteed.

The IMF declined to comment on the new criticism of the deal. The article was reported by Miguel Lo Bianco and Horacio Soria, and additional reporting was done by Rodrigo Campos. It was edited by Aurora Ellis.

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