Clashes as Argentina Congress debates pension reform

Clashes between police and demonstrators erupted Monday outside Argentina's Congress as lawmakers debated a pension reform measure that has angered retirees and prompted union leaders to wage a general strike.

The protesters threw bottles, rocks and at least one Molotov cocktail. Police in riot gear responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and sprays of water.

"We have no one to defend us," said 70-year-old Cristina Sanmero, who found herself caught in the clashes. "At my age, I have to come here and defend my contributions of 30 years. We're governed by inept people who think that it's easier to take away from the old."

The measure, which already passed the Senate, is part of a series of economic changes pushed by the government of President Mauricio Macri to reduce Argentina's high deficit. Union leaders and social activists complain the legislation would cut pension and retirement payments as well as aid for some poor families.

Argentina's largest union began a 24-hour general strike at noon Monday to protest the bill, which was being debated in the lower house. Hundreds of flights were grounded in the Argentine capital due to the stoppage.

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