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Demonstrators bang pots, pans to protest Argentina's policies

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 7:10 AM EST, Fri November 9, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Demonstrators pack a 14-block stretch in Buenos Aires
  • The protests are known as "cacerolazos," named for the pots participants bang
  • Protesters criticize President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's government
  • "The constitution should be respected, not reformed," one organizer says

Buenos Aires (CNN) -- Throngs of people banged pots and pans Thursday, as they protested government policies in Argentina.

The massive march was the latest in a series of "cacerolazos," protests named for the cooking pots participants hit to draw attention to problems they say are growing in the South American nation, including crime rates, inflation and political corruption.

Many demonstrators said a key issue drove them to the streets: the possibility that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner could push through changes to the country's constitution and run for re-election.

"The people got tired, they really got tired of the government's lies," said Arturo Feldman, a 23-year-old student who joined the protest near Buenos Aires' iconic obelisk.

Demonstrators there packed a 14-block stretch on the city's central avenue, waving Argentinian flags and signs that said, "Enough Insecurity," "No to Re-election" and "Liberty."

It's a scene that's played out on the streets of Argentina's capital for months. And on Thursday, it went global.

The sound of clanking pans rang out in a Miami-area neighborhood known as Little Buenos Aires. Other marches were scheduled in international locations including New York, London, Madrid, Paris and Rome. Argentina's La Nacion newspaper reported Thursday that protesters demonstrated in Sydney, Australia.

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A "cacerolazo" takes place against the Fernandez government in Buenos Aires Thursday.

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We are here simply to support all Argentinians
Christian Ferreyra, organizer

In Miami, protesters waved signs that said, "We are not afraid" and "We don't want a communist Argentina."

"We are here simply to support all Argentinians," organizer Christian Ferreyra told CNN en EspaƱol.

Protester Romina Daviani said a variety of reasons, including high crime and inflation in Argentina, had brought them to the streets.

"But above all, the need for dialogue," she said. "We cannot express ourselves. If you express a different opinion, they pursue you."

Police estimated about 300 people turned out in Miami.

The protests, which started in Buenos Aires in June, have drawn sharp criticism from supporters of the Argentinian president.

Many took to social media on Thursday to denounce the demonstrations. Some decry what they call a right-wing push to defame the president or overthrow the government. Others say protesters have no clear message.

Argentina's government has avoided directly acknowledging the protests.

But on Thursday morning, Fernandez's official Facebook page noted that her country is a democracy where people are free to express their opinions.

"So the only thing I ask is that to each Argentinian, and mainly their leaders, let everyone really say what they think and what they want for the country, with sincerity. Nobody is going to be offended or be bothered," Fernandez wrote. "Well, if there is a group that demands certain things, you have to take the lead and speak clearly. Now please, let no one pretend that I have become contradictory with my own policies, which I have defended since I was 16 years old, the policies and the country that I believe in."

Past demonstrations have been nonpartisan, but this time some opposition leaders have made their opinions known.

Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri tweeted Monday that he planned to participate.

Fernandez's popularity has been in decline since her re-election last year, due in part to economic problems. Officially, Argentina's annual inflation rate is 12%, but most analysts and consumers suspect it is much higher. In September, the International Monetary Fund gave Argentina three months to provide more reliable estimates.

Thursday's protests come about a week after Argentinian lawmakers passed a new measure lowering the nation's voting age from 18 to 16. Some critics have said the voting-age change, a year before a key mid-term election in Argentina, is an attempt by Fernandez's party to garner more votes and increase the odds that lawmakers will change the constitution to allow her re-election bid.

Many demonstrators Thursday said they would oppose such a move.

"The constitution should be respected, not be reformed," said Francisco Bugallo, who helped organize the Buenos Aires protest.

Rosendo Fraga, a political analyst based in Buenos Aires, said that the cacerolazo protests will affect the country's political future.

"They will without a doubt influence the mid-term elections. ... There's a lot of time before those elections," he said, "but this gives the opposition an opportunity."

CNN's Adriana Hauser, Jose Manuel Rodriguez, Gustavo Valdes and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

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