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Public universities in Argentina stand up to Milei: “No to the adjustment”

Public universities in Argentina stand up to Milei: “No to the adjustment”

Several thousand students and professors from public universities in Argentina This Tuesday they staged the largest mobilization against the adjustment plan of far-right president Javier Milei, considering it a threat to the continuity of free education that has trained several generations of Argentines and foreigners.

If the university is empty, what do we fill the future with?” read a handwritten sign held by a young man in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, the epicenter of the mobilization. “In defense of public education”, which also had replicas throughout the country and had the support of unions, social organizations and opposition parties.

The crux of the conflict is the decision of the ultra-liberal president to maintain the 2023 national budget, despite a year-on-year inflation of almost 288% in March and ordering an increase in items unilaterally. The measure is part of the austerity and deregulation plan for the economy that Milei has been carrying out since he took office on December 10 and, according to him, is the only alternative to end the scourge of inflation.

The authorities of the public University of Buenos Aires (UBA), one of the most prestigious in Latin America and the one with the highest enrollment of students in the South American country, denounced that the official resolution is seriously affecting the functioning of its different faculties, to the point of having They had to hold classes in darkness or in streets and squares to reduce electricity consumption, and they warned that in these conditions they could close their doors in the middle of the year.

Our universities have suffered a strong adjustment in real terms in operating expenses. The amounts that the Executive Branch sends to the universities month after month to be able to function, maintain buildings, carry out works, support scholarships, residences, dining rooms, research, scientific development, laboratories, basic services, rents, everything was frozen“, according to a document read by the president of the Argentine University Federation (FUA)—bringing together students from public universities throughout the country—at the closing of the protest.

We reach March 2024 with an expense budget at September 2022 values“, he pointed.

The police did not report the number of protesters in the Argentine capital, while organizers said there were 800,000 people.

Andrea Koch, 27, a UBA medical student, told The Associated Press that she would not have been able to study the degree if it had not been free and fears that she will not be able to receive it if it closes.

If the government does not change its position, the UBA will close before the end of the year. We had never reached this point despite the crises of other years, I hope this protest makes the president reconsider“, held.

Aerial view during a march in protest against budget adjustments to public universities in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on April 23, 2024. (Photo by Emiliano Lasalvia/AFP).

According to data from the Ministry of Education corresponding to the year 2023, of the 2.7 million university students throughout the country, 80% study in state-run universities.

Flavia Comiglio, 41 and a graduate of Social Communication from UBA, held a sign with the phrase: “Our sons and daughters deserve to be whatever they want to be. “Public and free university.”

Defunding the university is a way to destroy it. It is important to defend it so that the lower classes who do not have money to pay for education have access to university and pursue the career they want. In other countries that doesn’t happen. I have three daughters and I want them to have the same opportunities“, he claimed.

The Ministry of Human Capital, on which the area of ​​education depends, indicated in a statement that the public universities received 21,888 million pesos (about US$ 24.5 million) from the National State for their operation the day before and that it was carried out “100% deposit of operating expenses” of national universities, with an increase of 70%.

But the leaders of the university movement indicated that even with this improvement the budget is running behind inflation. “More than 90% of what the state invests in higher education is allocated to paying the salaries of teachers and non-teachers in national universities. In recent months, workers’ salaries have lost 50% compared to inflation. Without decent wages, public education is unviable“, indicated the university document.

Through her social networks, Milei replied to posts from her followers against the protest and in which she questioned the “political interests” behind the call.

The Minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich, pointed out that the march that takes place in the capital seeks “put the government in check” by having the presence of Peronist leaders and leftist social organizations opposed to Milei, an ultraliberal and extreme right economist who took office in December.

Bullrich stated that “The entire country is at a time when it must adjust to get ahead”.

The government also accuses the UBA and other public universities of indoctrination and lack of transparency in the management of resources.

Verónica Pardo, 52 years old and Bolivian, marched with a copy of her nursing degree from the UBA and dressed in a white apron. “It is not true that the public university seeks to indoctrinate. It teaches us to have a critical spirit, it gives us possibilities, it teaches us that it is possible to reach a goal.“, stated the woman and pointed out that foreigners “We do not give place to Argentines in the university, on the contrary, we enrich it with our different visions”.

In an unprecedented event, representatives from different political spaces, from the former center-left president Cristina Kirchner, the head of the centrist Radical Civic Union (UCR), Martín Lousteau and the former mayor of Buenos Aires, the conservative Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, participated in the mobilization.

It also had the support of private study houses such as the universities of San Andrés and Torcuato Di Tella, which showed their concern for “the obvious campaigns to discredit national universities and scientific research.”

Other provinces, such as Córdoba, were also the scene of massive demonstrations in which the student movement has united with the General Confederation of Labor—the main union center—and opposition political forces against the cuts that the government has been applying to public education. .

We believe in the equalizing capacity of free public education. In the transformative power of the university as a formidable tool for upward social mobility…all the problems we have are solved with more education and more public universities“, concluded the university students. “Education saves us and makes us free. We call on Argentine society to defend it. Long live public education.”

Source: Gestion

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