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Argentina LIVE | Massive mobilization of students against Milei’s adaptation to universities

Thousands of university students filled the streets with Argentina this Tuesday to repudiate the cut in funding to the public university, which was declared a budgetary state of emergency as part of the ultraliberal president’s adjustment policy Javier Milei. In the country’s main cities, students, graduates and professors from the 57 national state universities called for a march “in defense of free public university education”. The unions and opposition parties joined the call and university professors accompanied it with a strike.

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In capital ArgentinaLarge columns gathered around the headquarters of the 13 faculties of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) to march in the afternoon towards Plaza de Mayo.

LOOK: In budget emergency, universities defy Milei cuts in Argentina

Protesters carried books as a sign of protest and posters with vignettes from the emblematic comic strip “Mafalda”.

One of them, Pablo Vicenti, 22 years old and studying his third year of Medicine at UBA, said he was outraged by “the government’s brutal attack” on the public university. “They want to end financing with a false story that there is no money. Yes, they have it, but they choose not to spend it on public education,” he told AFP.

In the city of Córdoba, the center of the country and home to the prestigious university of the same name, tens of thousands of students filled the streets also carrying books.

Universities declared a budgetary emergency after the government decided to extend the same budget they received in 2023 for this year, despite year-on-year inflation that reached 290% in March.

“Don’t wait for public expenditure to emerge”, warned Milei on Monday when announcing on national television that public accounts recorded a surplus in the first quarter, although at the price of thousands of layoffs and the collapse of economic activity and consumption.

Below the poverty line

Last week, and in the heat of university protests, Milei agreed to “increase operational expenditure items by 70% in March and another 70% in May”, in addition to an extraordinary budget for university hospitals, with which the government considers that the discussion “is resolved”, said presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni this Tuesday.

Operating expenses exclude teaching salaries, which represent 90% of the university’s budget.

“Of the four teaching categories, three fell below the poverty line,” said the rector of the National University of San Luis, Víctor Moriñigo, when explaining a teaching salary scale whose floor is 100,000 pesos per month (112 dollars).

Additionally, energy tariffs have increased by 500% this month, putting universities on the brink of paralysis, officials said.

“At the rate they are giving us money, we will only be able to operate for two to three months,” said the rector of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), Ricardo Gelpi.

For Rubén Arena, professor and graduate of the Faculty of Economic Sciences, the protest seeks to “defend the future of Argentina and many generations that will be able to have access to excellent education.”

Cutting expenses is necessary, said the 48-year-old protester, “but not in the way that is being adjusted in universities, which allow an upward social movement”.

Confrontation

Milei questioned the transparency of the use of funds and the quality of teaching by suggesting that public universities “are used for shady deals and indoctrination”, as he wrote on the X network over the weekend.

“We cannot call into question 200 years of history. Even with a very low budget, UBA is among the three best in Latin America”, stated the dean of the UBA Faculty of Medicine, Luis Brusco.

Around 2.2 million people study in the public university system, chosen by 80% of students over private institutions, in a country with almost half of its population of 47 million people in poverty.

The state higher education system enjoys great academic prestige and was the birthplace of five Nobel Prize winners. Argentina -three of them in exact sciences-, in addition to scientific and technological developments recognized worldwide.

Last week, several UBA-dependent buildings had to ration the use of elevators, turn off lights in common spaces, limit library hours, reduce the use of hot water and limit university extension programs, as part of emergency measures.

The Faculty of Medicine operated in dim light, with classrooms and corridors in darkness, and elevators limited to the use of people with reduced mobility.

Source: Elcomercio

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