Bakers from Buenos Aires gave away five tons of bread on Wednesday in a protest against proposed utility rates hikes in Argentina. The give-away occurred outside the Congress headquarters, where legislators are considering the increases.
“It’s a symbolic action that aims to bring attention to the situation 40,000 bakers in Argentina are suffering; a bakery that can’t operate normally ends up working informally,
closes its shutters and works in the black economy,” the president of the bakery association, Leo Bilanski, said.Hundreds lined up at the plaza facing the Congress building, with people waiting more than a half hour for a kilo of bread.Th
e protesters called on the lower house of Congress, which on Wednesday achieved the necessary quorum for a special session to debate sharp rises in the cost of utilities, to declare a “rate emergency” and roll back prices to 2017 levels.
The protest is only the latest in a series by various business and public organizations opposed to austerity measures and elimination of subsidies proposed by Argentine President Mauricio Macri. Among the subsidies the president wants to roll back are those gas, electricity, water and public transportation.
Macri insists the measures are necessary to combat the high inflation rate and large budget deficit. Inflation in Argentina is currently running at about 20 percent. The bakers also denounced a sharp recent rise in the price of their main ingredient, wheat flour, saying the cost of that product had climbed by more than 100 percent in the past two weeks.
The price increases affect common expenses at buildings where bakers’ stores are located, Bilanski said, adding that some owners have seen their electricity bills rise from 2,500 pesos (some $122) to 25,000 pesos (some $1,222) in a period of three years.
“There’s no way to have a bakery completely in good standing, no matter how hard you try. The costs are too high,” said Gonzalo Barragan, owner of the Colon bakery in Lujan in Buenos Aires province.