Social Development Minister accuses social leaders of “violating children’s rights”

Her comments sparked outrage among social organizations

Social Development Minister Victoria Tolosa Paz published a Twitter thread yesterday accusing social leaders who protested this week of “violating children’s rights.”

Yesterday and today, tens of thousands of activists from left-wing and Peronist groups demonstrated in front of the Casa Rosada in the “Marcha Federal” (Federal March) against austerity measures mandated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and calling for social aid. Protesters set up a campsite in front of the government building yesterday and marched to the Social Development Ministry today.

The minister deemed the fact that activists from the group of social movements Unidad Piquetera (United Picketers) brought their children to the protests as “unacceptable.”

“It is unacceptable to see a group of social leaders violating children’s rights, exposing them to spend hours and even sleep in the street when they should be in schools or clubs exercising their right to get an education, be fed, and play,” Tolosa Paz said.

Her claims were quickly repudiated on social media.

“You are the one leaving children on the streets, minister,” said Eduardo Belliboni, leader of the Polo Obrero movement, which is apart of Unidad Piquetera, on Twitter. “You dedicate yourself to cutting the supplies of soup kitchens all over the country.”

Unidad Piquetera is made up of social movements such as Polo Obrero, Barrios de Pie, among others. Together with other social movements such as UTEP and Movimiento Evita – which are closer to the national government–, they are holding demonstrations in front of the Social Development Ministry against austerity measures. 

They are demanding that the government stop cutting the budget for welfare programs and soup kitchens.

“Even members of her government are saying that she is applying austerity measures mandated by the IMF [International Monetary Fund],” Belliboni told the Herald.

Tolosa Paz announced she called the National Ombudsman’s Office for the Rights of Children and Adolescents to inform them of the situation. The office has yet to respond.

“She didn’t call the Ombudsman’s Office in neighborhoods where teenagers are tempted by drug dealers, where children are hungry, not even when a homeless baby died meters from the Casa Rosada,” Belliboni told the Herald. “She is only worried when their parents protest.”

Belliboni called this the last straw, and asked for her resignation. “The possibilities of dialogue have been exhausted”

“It’s obvious that you’ve never been starving, Tolosa Paz. It’s obvious that you don’t have a clue about what happens in the province [of Buenos Aires],” Buenos Aires Province Deputy Natalia Zaracho, who belongs to the Patria Grande social movement, said on her Twitter account.

Before being a deputy, Zaracho was a cartonera, collecting cardboard and other discarded recyclables on the street in order to resell them.  

“Nobody wants to go with their child to protest in the cold and if you reach that point it’s because you have no other option.”

The Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS, its Spanish acronym) also chimed in. 

“Narratives like these contribute to delegitimizing the meaning of the protests and the organizations that carry them out, without considering that their demands are related to the implementation of policies to protect children,” they wrote in a communiqué.

Marcela Perelman, director of the CELS’ Investigation Department told the Herald that Tolosa Paz joined the “voices that, in this [presidential] campaign, are calling social protest a ‘menace’.”

Perelman also said that the Social Development Ministry has a specific department that provides hygiene, health, and food during protests, which she called “a key role in this critical context.”

“The Minister is deflecting the responsibility to the children’s families, but the main reason for this and other protests is that most [Argentine] children are living in poverty.”

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