5 Tevet, 5762
The Emergency Situation and the Jewish Community of Argentina- Background Information.
The Current Situation
A 30-day state of emergency was declared in Argentina in light of the severe economic condition, which resulted in street rioting. The following have been the major events which occurred yesterday, 19 December:
· Violent protest which resulted in the deaths of five and the wounding of over 100.
· Minister of the Economy Cavallo and all other ministers, with the exception of the President, resigned. This portends an impending drastic change in the management of the nation's economy.
· Demonstrators set fire to the Ministry of Economy.
· The Government allocates $7m for basic food stuffs for the population.
· Many stores are closed out of fear of pillage.
· The Senate halted its deliberations in order to assess the situation.
· In the city of Cordoba rioting broke out in front of the Municipality.
· The Left demonstrated against the state of emergency.
· The Government announced that it will use force against rioters.
It is not yet known how Pres. De la Rua will organize the new Government. Prior to the riots the Congress had decided on a 6,000 million cut, a reduction 13%reduction in pensions and the firing of 24,00 government employees.
The average wage in Argentina is $400 a month, while the sum necessary for subsistence of an average family is $2,000.
About a week ago, all bank accounts were frozen by the Government. Only $250 in cash per week may be withdrawn.
The official unemployment rate is between 13-17%, while 60% of those employed work without any social benefits. 58% of all children under the age of 14 are poor; one third of infants under two years suffer from malnutrition. During the '90s seven million members of the middle class (i.e. about 20% of the population of Argentina)became poor. The middle class, which in the past consisted of some 50% of the Argentine people is today reduced to 25% of the population.
The Jewish Community of Argentina
Until the '90s the members of the Jewish community of Argentina were characteristically small businessmen, small and middle-level manufacturers, and civil servants. The economic crisis in South America, and in particular the crisis in Argentina, hit hard at the Jewish community. Approximately 1,700 Jewish families lost their homes. Some now live crowded into single cheap hotel room in the poverty neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. Some Jewish families have been found living under bridges, in plazas and in public parks. As of today the number of welfare cases dealt with by the Jewish community (food, clothing shelter and job assistance) jumped from 4,000 to 20,000. The community estimates that the number of needy is larger but a potion of the "new poor" are embarrassed to receive aid from the Community charitable organizations and prefer to turn to soup kitchens run by the Church.
The economic crisis has led to family crises. There has been an increase in family violence, divorce and in single parent families. Since 1989 (when Jewish banks collapsed) 4,500 Jewish students dropped out of the Jewish educational system, and over 50% of those who remained are receiving Community tuition scholarships, Seven Jewish schools have closed and three Jewish schools merged into a single school. Dozens of teachers who had specialized in Jewish studies or Herbrew became unemployed. For further information:
Contact the Office of the Spokesman:
Liaison to Foreign Press and Media JAFI