Tens of thousands of workers took to the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina as part of a nationwide strike on Wednesday, Jan 24. Argentinians are striking against President Janier Milei and his far-right agenda. The strike shut down schools, businesses, and flights throughout the country and came after a mobilization by the largest union in the country, Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT), and other unions. The strike started at 10 AM local time and was set to last 12 hours.
Milei issued a bill that would modify or remove hundreds of laws in order to limit the power of unions in the country and deregulate the economy. It would restrict essential workers’ right to strike and implement a system of compensation that would make it easier for companies to fire employees. It would also force workers to pay for private healthcare directly rather than going through a union. The decree was placed on hold by a court ruling because of the CGT’s opposition.
President Milei was elected into office a little over a month ago in December. This strike took place just 45 days into his presidency, making it the fastest protest against an elected official in the Argentina government. Milei promised a reduction in state spending to lower inflation, which was at 211.4% by the end of 2023. He believes his actions will rescue the country from the “economic hell” brought by his predecessors.
Milei’s administration reported that they would take away a day of pay from anyone attending the strike and put in place a toll-free line for citizens to report any threats to not go to their jobs. The security minister, Patricia Bullrich, says no strike will stop the government from moving forward. Foreign Minister Diana Mondino tweeted that, “[The strike] confirms we’re on the right path.”
Former US President Donald Trump showed his support by saying that Milei is “making Argentina great again.” Others have compared Milei’s tactics to Margaret Thatcher’s efforts to revive the economy in Britain in the 1980s.
The CGT’s secretary general Héctor Daer said this bill “destroys individual rights of workers, collective rights and seeks to eliminate the possibility of union action at a time in which we have great inequality in society.”
Polls conducted by analysts suggest the strike will likely have no significant impact on Milei’s policies and that the majority of Argentinians still support his administration. The bill is being discussed in the lower house of Congress with analysts believing the bill may be watered down before moving onto the Senate. A vote is expected within the next few days.
Every two in five citizens live in poverty in Argentina. Citizens have been hit with a surge in energy, food bills, and transportation fees. In one month, food costs went up by 30%. The 2023 inflation was the highest the country has seen in 32 years. It went from 12.8% in November to 25.5% in December. President Milei claims his “shock therapy” strategy is the only way out of this economic turmoil.
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