The historic Plaza de Mayo, where crowds of Argentines gather to celebrate or protest violently, has become the scene for a more silent crowd at night: poor people looking for a hot plate to eat.
With an annual inflation of 124.4%, poverty would have reached 40% of the Argentine population, according to an expert estimated hours before the Government released updated data on the sector on Wednesday, which will affect its chances for the presidential election in October.
”This is cardboard (garbage collection for recycling) from morning until 7 or 8 at night to earn 3,000 pesos (4 dollars at the informal exchange rate or about 9 at the official exchange rate ) or 4,000 pesos. What did you do with that? Nothing,” Erica Maya, a 45-year-old widow with six children standing in a long line for a dish in Plaza de Mayo, in central Buenos Aires, told Reuters.
“It is better and more comfortable to come here, the better your food. You will leave with a full stomach and happy,” he explained while waiting for the food offered by a non-governmental organization.
As a result of the prolonged financial crisis, analysts expect an increase in poverty in the first half of this year from 39.2% registered in the second half of 2022 – the last official record -, according to the state entity of Indec statistics
The precarious situation puts the center-left Government in check, which aims to reach the second round when on October 22 Economy Minister Sergio Massa faces the ultra-liberal Javier Milei and the former center-right that minister Patricia Bullrich in the election.
“The level of poverty in Argentina, although there are no figures, we estimate that it is 40% of the population, in the traditional measurement of poverty by income,” said Eduardo Donza, specialist of the Social Debt Observatory of the Catholic University.
Amidst the painful context, many Argentines turn to informal jobs to supplement their low incomes or barely survive.
“I do this to feed my family and it’s a step I take because it’s hard to find a job now (…) So I turned to selling tortillas and looking for a way to live my family and my daughter,” said Diego Ortiz, 30, as he cooked flour tortillas over hot coals to sell in a suburb of Buenos Aires.
It is expected that, due to high inflation, poverty will be higher in the second half of 2023, although the data will only be known in March next year. the increase in work. If we do not reach, which will be a difficult issue, it will be almost impossible for us to get out of this situation,” added Donza.