Leaders of social movements responded to Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, who yesterday said his government would remove beneficiaries from welfare programs if they turn down more than two job offers without justification. Larreta said he would do the same for national welfare programs if elected as president in this year’s elections.
“These are electoral statements within the framework of a common policy between the government and the opposition, to attack those who are most vulnerable,” Eduardo Belliboni, leader of the leftist Polo Obrero social movement, told the Herald.
Larreta said that those who are already in Ciudadanía Porteña [Buenos Aires Citizenry], a welfare program from the city, will have to update their personal details in May and will be contacted with job and training opportunities based on their profiles. Those who fail to update their information will be removed from the program.
“If the social welfare plan is not an incentive that leads to a formal job, then it has to be cut,” Rodríguez Larreta said.
He also said that he aims to cut the social programs’ “middlemen”, that is, social movements, who often administer them. “[Social movements] profit from the needs of those who have the least,” Rodríguez Larreta told the press.
According to Belliboni, if Larreta sought to remove intermediaries from welfare access, the response should be the “universalization” of those programs, contending that party politics should not be a factor —the opposite of Larreta’s proposed welfare cuts.
According to him, both Larreta and the national government “are competing with [far-right libertarian candidate Javier] Milei to see who offers fewer rights.”
He said that Larreta’s proposal is similar to Social Development Minister Victoria Tolosa Paz, who cut welfare for recipients who failed to complete a form.
Social movements have held frequent protest camps outside the Social Development Ministry against that.
Belliboni said that there is an “anti-protesters campaign” since right-wing figures like Milei are growing. “The failure of the last two national governments [Juntos por el Cambio and Frente de Todos] left an enormous political gap that is being covered by reactionaries like Milei.”
Moreover, Belliboni said that Larreta’s proposal makes no sense since people who benefit from welfare programs such as the city’s Ciudadanía Porteña and the national government’s Potenciar Trabajo [Empowering Work] already work.
“Not only do they work, but they are constantly looking for new jobs.”
Argentine representatives frequently discuss the issue of welfare programs, which national governments have used to fight poverty, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s authorities. Recently, the IMF said in a report assessing the country’s economy that the government should make “efforts to strengthen targeting” of Potenciar Trabajo, which benefits 1.2 million people with a monthly payment equalling half of the minimum wage – currently AR$42,256 (US$185 at the official rate, US$98 at the MEP dollar rate).
According to Belliboni, the main economic problem is not people who collect welfare, but the “starvation wages.” Different political leaders, even Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, denounced there are “registered workers under poverty” in the country, as a new phenomenon.
On his side, Juan Grabois, FdT presidential hopeful and leader of the Patria Grande Front, said in a video he uploaded on social media that Larreta’s announcements are “disgusting.”
“It represents the infamous tradition of anti-poor demagoguery.”
Grabois said the amount of money offered by Ciudadanía Porteña is negligible.
“It’s AR$26,000 on average, below the destitution line,” he said.
“[Larreta] is taking part in the campaign that says Argentina’s problem is that there is too much welfare,” Belliboni said. “He lies. The problem in Argentina is economic concentration.”
Currently, some 1.3 million Argentines collect some form of welfare. According to the latest official statistics, 39.2% of Argentines were below the poverty line and 8.1% were below the destitution threshold.
“Don’t get fooled,” he said. “The problem is not that we have a society with too much solidarity, the problem is that society is ceasing to have solidarity.”