Massive protests across Argentina against higher education budget cuts 

By April 26, 2024

Buenos Aires, Argentina – Hundreds of thousands of people marched on April 23 in Buenos Aires, Rosario, Córdoba and other major cities across Argentina to protest against the government’s decision to slash the budget of public universities. 

Carrying hand crafted banners and books, students, educators and political activists flooded streets in peaceful defiance while President Javier Milei used his social media accounts to discredit the demonstrations.

Since taking office in December, the Libertarian president’s administration has not increased government funding for the public university system, despite annual inflation hitting a record 288% in March. 

In the days preceding the protest, the Ministry of Human Capital — which oversees the public higher education budget — tried to appease university officials by allowing for some changes in structural spending. However, the changes would represent just 3% of the total public university budget needed for 2024, and due to the cuts, some facilities began turning off the lights during class to save money. 

The right to public higher education is very much ingrained in Argentine society. Graduate and postgraduate schooling was made free during the government of Juan Domingo Perón in the 1950s with the aim of achieving more equal access to university education. 

On Tuesday, an estimated 430,000 peopleincluding some who voted for Milei in last year’s elections — hit the streets of Buenos Aires to voice their concerns that public universities should remain free. Many more marched in cities in the rest of the country from Ushuaia in Patagonia to northern Santiago del Estero.

Young people splashed painted slogans on cardboard signs, carried literature like Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” and held up copies of the National Constitution in defiance of the budget cuts. 

One protester held a sign that said, “Grandson of an illiterate. Son of a kiosk employee. UBA doctor,” in an assumed reference to his education at the University of Buenos Aires.

Another read, “Without science, there’s no Conan,” using the name of President Milei’s bullmastiff who was cloned from another of Milei’s dogs which died in 2017. 

On Wednesday, Milei posted on X that the marches were orchestrated by the government’s opposition, which is using the demonstrations as an excuse to maintain their political privileges.