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Buenos Aires locked down for G20 summit, protest tightly controlled

World News
Fri, 30 Nov 2018

Buenos Aires: Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Buenos Aires on Friday to march against the G20's economic policies as the world's leading industrialised nations opened their annual summit in the Argentine capital.

But the protesters were unlikely to get anywhere near the leaders of the United States, Russia, China and other global powers gathered for a meeting whose agenda was expected to be dominated by the US-China trade war.

Police, coast guard and border patrols cordoned off a 12-square-kilometre (5-square-mile) area around the riverside Costa Salguero convention centre, where the summit is being held. Cargo traffic on La Plata River was shut down for the event.

The march, organised by a coalition of labour unions and rights groups, was being held about 5km (3 miles) away from the summit and was due to start at 3pm (1800 GMT).

Buenos Aires was largely locked down. Public transportation was suspended and hundreds of intersections blocked to control traffic and crowds. Friday was declared a national bank holiday and Argentina's centre-right government suggested people leave town for the summit.

Those measures made it hard for activists to get to the march.

"The government imposed prohibitive terms," said Beverly Keene, march co-ordinator and head of Jubileo Sur-Dialogo 2000, a group that campaigns for Latin American debt reform.

Protests are common at such large global gatherings, with disparate groups of demonstrators often finding common ground in protesting against what they see as the rich world's neglect of the poor and marginalised.

Police were on high alert after a melee at a Buenos Aires soccer stadium derailed the final leg of South America's main club tournament on November 24.

President Mauricio Macri said the incident, which raised questions about the effectiveness of Argentine security forces, "an embarrassment" and called for tougher law enforcement.

December is usually the month when protests over Argentina's chronically troubled economy turn violent. With inflation at a dizzying 45 per cent and the economy contracting, popular unrest could be an additional factor to worry security services.

The Security Ministry restricted the route for the anti-G20 march to a 2.5-km (1.55 mile) stretch from the city's main street, Avenida 9 de Julio, to the country's Capitol building.

Keene had proposed a longer route that would have included Buenos Aires' central obelisk and Plaza de Mayo behind the Casa Rosada presidential palace, which is Argentina's traditional protest venue.

Last year Germany hosted the G20 summit in the centre of the northern port city of Hamburg. At that meeting police struggled to contain black-clad anti-capitalist militants who torched cars, looted shops and hurled Molotov cocktails while tens of thousands more people demonstrated peacefully.

Marchers and Argentine security officials said they saw no sign of violent anarchist groups in Buenos Aires like the ones who attacked in Hamburg.

"There will be no Black Bloc anarchists here. It's too far away from Europe," said Andy Konig, a 54-year-old social worker from Hamburg who travelled to Buenos Aires for the march.

"We have only seen peaceful people," he told Reuters Thursday night at a concert at the Capitol building sponsored by a group called the Feminist Forum against the G20.

He held a banner saying 'Confluence of Resistance', 'Hamburg Salutes Buenos Aires.'

Nearby, local merchants were busy selling beer, the local beef-filled pastries called empanadas and books on leftist ideology.

Security Minister Patricia Bullrich told reporters on Friday morning that no violent groups had entered the country for the protest, and that 2,500 police had been assigned to the march.

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