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Argentines demonstrate against return to IMF loans

(Reuters) – Argentina’s decision to request a “high access stand-by” financing arrangement from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to calm volatile financial markets has rocked the South American nation.

That decision, along with increases on taxes on basic utilities, drew the ire of thousands of Argentines who gathered for protests outside Congress into the evening.

Argentina announced it was seeking a lifeline from the IMF on Tuesday after the peso currency weakened to all-time lows.

Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne met with IMF Western Hemisphere Director Alejandro Werner in Washington on Wednesday, as Argentina tries to tackle one of the world’s highest inflation rates and a general outflow of funds from emerging market economies. Negotiations for these types of deals often take up to six weeks, the ministry said.

Turning to the IMF is a politically risky move for business friendly President Mauricio Macri who was elected in late 2015 after 12 years of leftist government. Many Argentines blame the IMF for imposing policies on Argentina that led to a deep financial crisis in 2001 and 2002.

According to the IMF’s website, stand-by agreements or SBAs are most often used by middle-income countries to help them “emerge from crisis” and restore growth. Countries that borrow money under this framework must repay them within 3-1/4 and five years of disbursement. Cabinet Chief Marcos Pena urged Argentines not to fear the IMF at a news conference on Wednesday.

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