BUENOS AIRES – The speaker of Argentina’s lower house suspended Thursday’s scheduled debate on a controversial pensions overhaul amid disturbances both inside and outside the chamber.
Emilio Monzo, a supporter of right-wing President Mauricio Macri, finally acceded to pleas from his legislative allies to adjourn the session 45 minutes after he said that a quorum existed, a claim that sparked a raucous angry response from opposition lawmakers.
The aborted session was preceded by clashes outside Congress between security forces and protesters opposed to the government’s pensions initiative, which is seen as aimed at reducing payments to beneficiaries.
The mood inside the chamber was aggravated when pro-government member Elisa Carrio suggested that some of her colleagues had endangered “the forces of order.”
Enraged, leftist legislator Victoria Donda rose to ask for “a little bit of respect and solidarity” before going on to say that she was struck by cops Wednesday during a vigil outside Congress.
Once the speaker suspended proceedings, the leader of the largest opposition bloc in the house, Agustin Rossi, said that he and his allies were “content because we avoided a plundering of the retirees and pensioners of Argentina.”
“This law is a bad law,” he said of the government bill. “If there is a fiscal problem let us resolve it without putting our hands into the pockets of retirees.”
Sources in Rossi’s FpV-PJ coalition said that police left one of their legislators, Matias Rodriguez, unconscious as the result of “a blow to the head,” and sprayed pepper-spray in the face of another lawmaker, Mayra Mendoza.
“What they did yesterday and today with the repression operations is unheard of. The Congress has never experienced this level of militarization,” Rossi said.
Argentina’s major labor federations have threatened to call for general strikes if the pensions overhaul is approved.