A man holds a sign during a protest against a cost increase in public and utility services in Buenos Aires
LIMA (Reuters) - Thousands of Argentines marched through downtown Buenos Aires on Thursday in the first of a series of demonstrations to protest the soaring costs of public utilities and transportation under President Mauricio Macri's austerity program.
Macri has slashed government subsidies for public utilities to reduce the country's chronic fiscal deficit, pushing electricity and gas rates up more 2,000 percent since the start of his term, local media have estimated.
"The only way to stop this is to peacefully protest," union leader Pablo Micheli said on local TV channel America TV.
Inflation neared 50 percent and the peso lost close to 50 percent of its value against the dollar last year. The IMF announced a $50 billion lifeline for Argentina in June.
The crisis has dimmed Macri's chances of being re-elected in an election scheduled for the last quarter of the year.
Protesters on Thursday carried effigies of Macri and signs that read "Enough of the Macri/IMF austerity program" as they marched past the city's obelisk monument toward Congress.
A union of truck drivers and a federation of workers' unions organized the protests, which are scheduled to be held every Thursday through the first week in February. Members of leftist political parties and independent Argentines have joined in.
(Reporting By Nicolas Misculin; Writing By Mitra Taj; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)