Argentine public universities march to protest budget cuts

Massive gatherings in Buenos Aires and other major cities nationwide demanded funding be updated

Updated 08:00 p.m.

Lidia Mercedes “Taty” Almeida, a member of the Mother of Plaza de Mayo human rights group, questioned Milei at the march. Sitting on a stage in the Plaza de Mayo, she answered the president’s repeated accusations that the march was political: “Of course it’s political, but it’s not partisan.” 

Almeida said that “the fight must go on” and that popular movements have not been defeated despite Milei’s presidential victory.

“Do not stop fighting, and this comes from us, the madwomen who, despite the canes and wheelchairs, are still standing,” the 93-year-old Almeida said.

Argentine Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel also spoke at the march. “We defend the public and free university, it’s one of the great conquests of our people and we will not give it up,” he said. The activist confirmed that his NGO presented an impeachment request against Milei in the Deputy Chamber. “He can’t destroy the country,” he said. Pérez Esquivel said that seeing students protesting in the streets filled him with hope.

Updated 7:21 p.m.

Although government officials said the administration’s draconian anti-protest protocol would be implemented against the march and there were Federal Police, City Police, and Military Police officials present, there have been no reports of violent clashes so far.

Updated 5:56 p.m.

The federal march to defend public education kicked off early on Tuesday afternoon with students, teachers, unions, and politicians nationwide showing their support for Argentina’s public universities. In Buenos Aires, protesters blocked 9 de Julio Avenue and marched from Congress to Plaza de Mayo at around 5 p.m.

“University is the cultural heritage of all Argentines, it’s similar to the Malvinas [Islands] because it unites us all, it unites all social sectors, people of different ideologies,” said Unión Civica Radical Deputy Leopoldo Moreau.  “University is education but it’s also science, research, art, culture, history, and future.” 

He described the march to the Herald as an “inflection point.” 

Meanwhile, President Javier Milei shared posts criticizing the march on X. The last one included the phrase Alerta de flequillo — a person’s haircut, in this case fringe or bangs, used as shorthand for left-wing activists.

Other high-profile politicians showed support for the march throughout the day. Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was filmed stepping out from her apartment and showing off a hoodie with the initials “UNLP” — her alma mater, the National University of La Plata. She also shared a photo of her student ID on social media alongside that of former President Néstor Kirchner.

Protesters packed the Plaza de Mayo and sang the national anthem at 5:50 p.m. Among the multiple prompts for the march were calls for people to take books that were important to them and hold them aloft: there were copies of Fahrenheit 451, the Argentine Constitution, and the Nunca Más report. 

Published 1:21 p.m.

Argentine public universities to march in protest of budget slashing

Photo: Ignacio Petunchi

Students, faculty, and staff from the 73 public universities in Argentina will march on Tuesday in Buenos Aires and major cities across the country to protest the slashing of their funding that the Milei administration has enacted since coming into office. Public universities’ budgets have been frozen since the start of 2024.

In Buenos Aires City, University of Buenos Aires (UBA) students will gather at 2:30 p.m. in Plaza Houssay and walk to Congress for the opening rally, scheduled for 3.30 p.m. The march will head towards Plaza de Mayo at 5 p.m., where the public university community will read a joint statement at 6 p.m.

Like ministries and other public bodies that depend on the national budget, funding for public universities has not been increased since Milei took office in December, despite yearly inflation running at 288%. Argentina did not approve a new national budget in 2022 or 2023, meaning the public administration has had the same budget since 2022. The government can provide additional funds to specific areas at its discretion. 

Other sectors have also decided to march in support of universities. The Argentine’s Worker Central (CTA, for its Spanish initials), the Buenos Aires City Teachers Association (Ademys), the National Federation of University Teachers (Conadu), and the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) will be present. Political figures from the opposition, such as former presidential candidates Sergio Massa and Juan Grabois, as well as Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof, have also confirmed their attendance.

The Inter-University National Council (CIN), which coordinates the policies and strategies of university development, has called on all sectors involved in the production of scientific knowledge to “unify in solidarity to defend the science that represents a key part of the university and the future of the country.”

On social media, there has been a prompt to bring a book to the march, like a copy of the Constitution or dystopian books like “1984”, “Animal Farm,” or “Fahrenheit 451.” The idea is to raise the book at the end of the mobilization as a message to the current government that public education matters. 

Police surveillance regarding the march is something being discussed between Buenos Aires City and the national authorities. Although BA mayor Jorge Macri has said that he would “guarantee a pacific mobilization, protecting everyone’s rights,” Patricia Bullrich, security minister of the Milei administration, warned that the anti-protest protocol created by the national government would be implemented.

University cuts all around the country

Beatriz Gentile is the rector of the Universidad Nacional del Comahue, responsible for overseeing a public university encompassing two provinces south of the country, fostering tens of science and technology projects, 17 schools, and more than 25,000 students.

But in the last two months, Gentile’s role has been quite different — she ordered the university’s cleaning services to be limited to one shift. She canceled the university’s cellphone service. She met with representatives of public service companies to negotiate discounts, as the university could not pay March’s water and electricity bills, and is expecting a sharp increase in this month’s gas tariff. 

“Putting so much energy in managing this misery takes a lot of time from the authorities, deans, rectors, and secretaries to manage and plan how to expand the university,” Gentile told the Herald.

Gentile is not alone, as President Javier Milei’s administration froze the budgets of all public universities in the country  — the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) said it had experienced an 80% cut in real terms.

Gentile said that, while the government is making cuts in universities all over the country, society is getting poorer from its austerity measures. Both things prevent more people from accessing higher education.

“If this goes ahead, the country will end up with a structural crisis of the university system because [the budget slashing] attacks the heart of the production of knowledge and the training of professionals whose fundamental pillar is the free public university with unrestricted and equal admission,” she said. “We are in a very difficult moment and that’s why we have to be together on April 23rd.”

The government’s comings and goings

The government’s answer to the march came on April 18, when the Ministry of Human Capital’s account on X announced a 70% increase in the budget for universities’ operating costs for March and May. The post claimed that the raise was the result of an agreement with the National Inter-University Council (CIN, by its Spanish acronym). 

However, the CIN said such an increase had not been settled, and an April report by the non-profit organization Civil Association for Equality and Justice (ACIJ) stated that the 70% increase was based on the portion of the budget allocated for operational costs, approximately 10% of the total. This means the increase is merely 2% of the university’s total fund.

Furthermore, ACIJ said higher education suffered from a 72% slash compared to the previous year.

Milei and his supporters have also consistently said that the universities are opposed to being audited, although the National General Audit Office oversees their budgets. The president also posted on X a piece of fake news stating that a research facility had been intentionally set on fire to hide documentation proving corruption.


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