12 juin 2024

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Argentina: anger rises against poverty and inflation and the first austerity decisions announced by Javier Milei

The left is mobilizing after the first austerity decisions announced by the new ultraliberal president Javier Milei. Clashes in the street and passing of weapons in Parliament.

The left is mobilizing after the first austerity decisions announced by the new ultraliberal president Javier Milei. Clashes in the street and passing of weapons in Parliament.

Thousands of Argentines blocked the streets of the capital Buenos Aires on Wednesday. They were protesting against poverty and inflation and the first austerity decisions announced for massive deregulation of the economy by the new ultraliberal president Javier Milei.

Nearly 4 in 10 Argentines are unable to cover their basic food needs, with austerity decisions angering the left and the poor.

Argentine President Javier Milei announced on Wednesday a massive deregulation of Latin America’s third largest economy and signed a decree intended to modify or repeal more than 300 standards including those on rents, privatizations and labor law.

“The objective is to begin the path towards rebuilding the country, returning freedom and autonomy to individuals and beginning to disarm the enormous amount of regulations that have held back, hindered and prevented economic growth in our country,” declared the president in a speech broadcast on radio and television.

The decree, however, still has to go through Parliament, where Mr. Milei’s party is in the minority.

Laws preventing the privatization of public companies such as the airline Aerolineas Argentinas or the oil group YPF must also be repealed. Public companies will all be transformed into public limited companies with a view to their privatization, said Javier Milei.

Among the measures announced are the repeal of the law governing rents “so that the real estate market begins to function smoothly again”, explained the president, elected in November and who took office on December 10.

The head of state also announced a “modernization of labor law” to create more jobs, the modification of the law on companies so that football clubs can transform into limited companies, and a long series of other deregulation measures in the sectors of tourism, health, internet, air transport, pharmacy, viticulture and even commerce.

The decree was published at midnight in the official journal. It will have to be examined within ten days by a joint commission made up of deputies and senators, but will only be invalidated if it is rejected by both chambers of Parliament, constitutional lawyer Emiliano Vitaliani explained to AFP.

Mr. Milei’s far-right party, La Libertad Avanza, has only 40 seats out of 257 in the Lower House and only seven seats in the Senate out of 72. He will therefore have to seek support from the center-right Juntos coalition. por el Cambio, partially allied with Mr. Milei and which has 81 deputies and 24 senators, and with 26 deputies and eight independent senators. The Peronist opposition has 105 deputies and 33 senators, and the left has five deputies.

Javier Milei announced on December 12 a first series of measures, including a shock devaluation of more than 50% of the peso and the reduction of transport and energy subsidies.

This 53-year-old economist was elected on a program of “cutting” the State, clearing the “political caste” and shock therapy to restore the country where inflation exceeds 160% over one year and which has more than 40% poor people.

Javier Milei wants to reduce public spending to 5% of gross domestic product (GDP). Argentina has been involved in “a series of crises over the last hundred years which all have the same origin: the budget deficit”, he justified in his speech.

The presidential address was greeted by a chorus of protests in several neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, and thousands of people spontaneously took to the streets near the Parliament to express their rejection.

A few hours before the presidential address, thousands of demonstrators had already marched in the capital at the call of the left-wing organizations Polo Obrero and Movimiento Socialista. It was the first demonstration against Mr. Milei since he came to power.

“This message is not surprising because there is nothing that Milei did not say he was going to do during the campaign. But it is surprising that the measure was taken in this way, with a decree of emergency,” commented political scientist Lara Goyburu to AFP.

The scale of the police force, supervised by the president and his Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich from the headquarters of the federal police, was criticized by the organizers. “It reminds me of the dictatorship,” commented Eduardo Belliboni, leader of Polo Obrero.

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