Massive Protests Erupt in Argentina Over University Budget Cuts

Argentine students, professors protest budget cuts to public universities under Milei's austerity measures, threatening higher education and social mobility.

Wojciech Zylm
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Massive Protests Erupt in Argentina Over University Budget Cuts

Massive Protests Erupt in Argentina Over University Budget Cuts

Hundreds of thousands of Argentine university students, professors, and alumni took to the streets in Buenos Aires and other cities to protest against budget cuts to higher public education under President Javier Milei's administration.

The demonstrations, which were joined by labor unions, opposition parties, and private universities, are among the largest yet against Milei's austerity measures since he took office in December 2023.

The protests were sparked by the government's decision to approve a 2024 budget for universities that is the same as the 2023 budget, despite annual inflation approaching 290%.

This has led universities to declare a financial emergency, with the rector of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) warning that the institution can only function for two to three more months at the current funding rate. "We are facing a very serious situation," said UBA rector Alberto Barbieri. "If this budget is not modified, the university will not be able to continue operating."

Milei's government has been slashing subsidies and reducing spending across various sectors in an effort to reach a zero deficit. Public universities, which are attended by 2.5 million students and employ over 250,000 teachers and staff, have been hit particularly hard. The UBA, one of the most prestigious universities in Latin America, has faced power outages and cuts to basic services due to the budget shortfall.

In response to the protests, Milei conceded a 70% increase in funding for public universities' operating expenses in March, to be followed by another 70% in May. However, this excludes teacher salaries, which make up 90% of a university budget and have fallen below the poverty line due to high inflation. Milei has also questioned how public universities spend their funds, accusing them of being used for "shady business" and "indoctrination."

Why this matters: The protests highlight the growing tensions between Milei's libertarian economic policies and the Argentine public's belief in free and quality university education as a fundamental right. The outcome of this conflict could have significant implications for the future of higher education and social mobility in Argentina.

Student leaders and university authorities have vowed to continue the protests until the government provides adequate funding to ensure the normal functioning of public universities. "We will not allow the government to destroy public education in Argentina," said Luisa Fernández, a student activist at the National University of Córdoba.

"We will fight until our demands are met." The government has not yet responded to the latest round of protests, but officials have previously defended the budget cuts as necessary to address Argentina's fiscal crisis.

Key Takeaways

  • Thousands protest budget cuts to public universities in Argentina under Milei's govt.
  • University budgets frozen despite 290% inflation, leading to financial crisis and service cuts.
  • Milei defends cuts, accusing universities of "shady business" and "indoctrination".
  • Protests highlight tensions between Milei's policies and public's belief in free, quality education.
  • University leaders vow to continue protests until adequate funding is restored.