Security operation keeps G20 protest far from leaders

Buenos Aires (AFP) –


Tens of thousand of protesters vented their fury in crisis-stricken Argentina Friday, marching through the streets of a locked-down capital as G20 leaders met.

Argentina's security minister Patricia Bullrich had warned that police would show zero tolerance towards unrest and demonstrators filed peacefully through the downtown 9 de Julio avenue under the watchful eye of security forces.

"We are demonstrating against the presence of the representatives of the big powers, we want them to know they are not welcome in our country," said Florencia di Llelo, at the head of the march.

Around her, a dozen topless young women, their bodies painted with the colors of the G20 nations, held a giant banner reading "they want war but we are giving them peace."

The marchers took aim in particular at US President Donald Trump, and held up banners denouncing Argentine President Mauricio Macri and the International Monetary Fund.

A $56 billion IMF bailout for Macri's cash-strapped government has necessitated harsh cuts in government spending and state subsidies, sparking near-daily street protests amid a deepening recession.

"I have painted myself in the colors of the United States to denounce Trump's imperialism and his lack of respect for women," said Mariana Torres, 23, a social studies student.

"Argentina is a colony, in different ways, the powers want to decide for us, to decide our future. Here, it's the IMF that's in charge," said Hector Aguirre, 50, an unemployed militant with the Socialist Workers Movement.

Argentine authorities had declared Friday a national holiday to limit disruption.

- Fears of violence -

Bullrich had pledged there would be no repeat of the violence that marred last year's G20 meeting in Hamburg.

Some recent protests have ended in clashes with the police, and Buenos Aires hit international headlines when fan violence just ahead of the G20 forced the relocation of a showpiece football final to Spain.

"If it goes badly, I'm going to run for it," said Claudia Martinez, 27, a psychologist who came to the march with friends.

Magdalena Tosoni, in Buenos Aires for a conference, was planning to spend Friday visiting museums when she found the city in lockdown, so she joined the protest.

"Argentina is a poor country. There's no money to repair or build schools, hospitals. Why put money into organizing a G20?" said the 53-year-old sociology professor.

Tadeo Cuoto, a 32-year-old engineer from Brazil, was draped in the red flag of an oil workers' union.

"The G20 is a symbol of wild capitalism. I came from Brazil to call for a more just world," he said.

"I hope the rioters are not going to spoil the protest. Violence weakens our legitimate claims. But I can understand it in some ways. The people so much want to fight the system that they end up condoning violence."

Violence was far from the minds of one group of marchers carrying a pole adorned with feathery Pampas grass, a common Argentine plant.

"It's a third-world plant that has anti-colonial properties," said Nicolas Herman from a local collective.

"This plant is colonizing Europe and threatening the ecosystem there as it grows. It's a kind of counter-colonization."