Thousands of people protested in Argentina over looming economic and labor law changes proposed by President Javier Milei, a radical libertarian who has proposed “shock therapy” for his country’s suffering economy.
The austerity measures, which weaken labor protections and abolish maximum pricing on rents, have angered the nation’s labor unions.
The 12-hour strike on Wednesday, just 45 days after the election that brought Milei to power, is viewed as the first major test of his presidency.
Unions stand to prove negotiating power against Milei
Demonstrations in Argentina’s capital have set the tone for lawmakers as they prepare to debate Milei’s proposed reforms in Parliament. The protests are an early test for Milei’s government — and for the labor unions. Union leaders need to prove their negotiating power, one political analyst told The Buenos Aires Times ahead of Wednesday’s strikes. Big protests help the labor movement “demonstrate how much weight it carries at the negotiating table,” Raúl Timerman said.
Milei faces uphill battle in pushing reforms through
Milei’s party holds only a small minority of seats in Argentina’s legislature, meaning the opposition can upend the president’s reform plans. Opposition leaders have argued that Milei is trying to bypass the nation’s Congress and implement his reforms without proper debates, the Financial Times reported. Others view a December emergency decree Milei issued, which overhauled major regulations across sectors, as a crisis for the government. Now, the president will need to show whether he’s willing to negotiate with the opposition, or if he’s “playing chicken with congress,” Buenos Aires-based analyst Ignacio Labaqui told the paper. “The fate of the government depends on which kind of game he wants to play.”
Milei approval rating high despite strikes, economic turmoil
Argentina’s economy has continued to spiral under Milei, with inflation skyrocketing and the currency further devaluing. Striking workers are frustrated with the six-week-old government, but Milei’s approval rating remains high, The New York Times reported. Around 58% of Argentines are supportive of the government — a full 2% higher than Milei’s vote count during the election. An Argentine constitutional lawyer told the Times that the president is using this period of support to push through as many changes to the country as possible, making updates hard to track. “I think the population generally doesn’t know what is being discussed,” he noted.