Milei’s radical overhaul is advancing in the Argentine Senate as protesters clash with police


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s Senate has begun what will likely be a late-night voting marathon on the details of Chairman Javier Milei ‘s sweeping proposals to cut spending and increase his own power early Thursday, shortly afterward to give general approval to the plan with the mood tight as thousands of protesters clashed with police outside.

Senators voted 37-36 late Wednesday to tentatively approve the two bills after a heated daylong debate as thousands of protesters took to the streets, setting cars on fire and throwing Molotov cocktails as hundreds of federal security forces retreated with tear gas and water. cannons.

The vote – decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Victoria Villarruel – provided a major boost for Milei, whose efforts to overhaul the government and economy. have encountered strong resistance in Argentina’s opposition-dominated Congress.

“Tonight is a triumph for the Argentine people and the first step toward restoring our greatness,” Milei wrote on X, calling his bills “the most ambitious legal reform of the past forty years.”

But crucial elements of the sweeping legislation must still survive an article-by-article vote in the Senate. The bill then heads back to the lower house, where lawmakers must approve any changes before Milei can officially claim his first legislative victory.

Right-wing and left-wing lawmakers have clashed over several parts of the 238-article constitutional reform law, including declaring a one-year state of emergency and delegating broad powers to the president on energy, pensions, security and other matters. until the end of Milei’s term in 2027.

Other controversial measures include an incentive scheme that would give investors lucrative tax breaks for 30 years.

Milei is a political outsider with just two years of experience as a lawmaker, and his three-year-old party, Liberty Advances, has just 15% of the seats in the lower house and 10% of the Senate.

He has failed to pass a single bill in his six months as president, raising questions about whether he will succeed in his ambitious project aimed at reducing the budget deficit and boosting growth. can perform. Instead, he has used executive power to cut subsidies, fire thousands of civil servants, devalue the currency and deregulate parts of Argentina’s economy.

The austerity measures and currency devaluation that Milei has orchestrated have – at least in the short term – deepened a recession, increasing poverty to 55% and driving annual inflation to 300%.

“If this law is passed, we will lose so many of our labor and pension rights,” said 54-year-old teacher Miriam Rajovitcher, who protested ahead of the vote along with colleagues who say they have had to rearrange their lives since Milei . School budgets were cut and the currency was devalued. “I’m so much worse off.”

Analysts say the promised benefits of Milei’s reforms – a stable currency, more moderate inflation, new foreign investment – ​​will not materialize without a political consensus to convince foreign investors that his changes are lasting. Milei’s government has said it wants to strike a new deal with the International Monetary Fund, to which Argentina already owes $44 billion.

“Everyone is in a wait-and-see mode,” said Marcelo J. García, Americas director at geopolitical risk firm Horizon Engage. “Investors are saying, ‘Yes, we like what you’re saying, but we need to see that this is sustainable.’

Milei’s allies said on Wednesday they had made tough concessions. His party, Liberty Advances, agreed not to sell the country’s post office, flagship airline Aerolíneas Argentinas or its public radio service, leaving only a handful of state-owned companies, including Argentina’s nuclear power company, open for possible privatization.

Milei’s original proposal late last year to privatize more than 40 Argentine state-owned companies sparked an uproar among the country’s powerful Peronist-dominated labor movement.

That was audible ahead of Wednesday’s Senate vote in central Buenos Aires, as bankers, teachers, truck drivers and thousands of union members and activists gathered around Congress. They sang: “Our country is not for sale!”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top