The masses test Milei with major protest
Starting mid-day Wednesday, Argentina’s most powerful unions will stop work to demonstrate against the financial overhauls proposed by new President Javier Milei, as his omnibus spending bill works its way through Congress. An impressive turnout is expected for the march to the national Congress in Buenos Aires, with smaller solidarity protests across the country. Workers everywhere – from banks to domestic airlines to those informally employed – say they will join the strike.
Union leaders recognize the need for economic reform (with 211% inflation rates and 40% of Argentines living in poverty, who wouldn’t?) but object to the working class being tasked with carrying so much of the burden. Milei has already used his executive powers to slash subsidies for transport and energy, among other areas, but his administration says increases to childcare and food aid benefits are meant to prevent catastrophe for impoverished citizens. The radical cuts proposed in the omnibus bill are all but certain to be moderated in Congress, where Milei’s party holds only a small minority of seats — but no one expects a painless experience.Is Milei’s honeymoon period ending? It’s one thing to wave a chainsaw around and yell about the “communist shits” in power, but it’s quite another to reverse Argentina’s century-long economic decline. A strong turnout against the cuts could put pressure on lawmakers to ease up, but don’t expect a collapse of the overhaul effort even in the case of a massive showing. The economic situation demands change – even unpopular change – and Milei’s rivals from former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s party are only too happy to let Milei’s approval rating take a beating before they make their move.