Sam Meadows

Can Javier Milei win his fight against Argentina’s strikers?

A demonstration against Argentina's president Javier Milei (Credit: Getty images)

An alliance with the trade union movements helped catapult Juan Peron, the icon of Argentine politics, to the presidency in the 1940s, and the Peronist political movement he created has had a close relationship with the unions ever since. It’s little surprise that they have opposed Argentina’s new president Javier Milei – very much not a Peronist – almost from the moment of his election victory in November. They have already organised street protests against his sweeping economic reforms, and forced him to temporarily shelve some of his plans with well-directed court challenges.

The latest of their efforts came when the powerful CGT union – which has an estimated seven million members – called the first general strike of Milei’s administration. Tens of thousands took to the streets of Buenos Aires this week to oppose the president and his proposed reforms. There have been 42 general strikes since the return of democracy in Argentina in 1983, but this latest walkout has come notably early in Milei’s term. According to the Economist, the average Argentine president has around two years before the unions strike. Milei has been in office just 45 days.

Milei’s major reforms haven’t even been enacted yet

A self-proclaimed libertarian and anarcho-capitalist, Milei came to power in a country facing one of the world’s worst economic crises, with both unemployment and inflation rising. He has promised a radical shakeup of Argentina’s economic orthodoxy, even if some of his headline proposals – ‘dollarising’ the economy and shuttering the central bank – appear to have taken a backseat for now. In December, Milei unveiled his ‘omnibus’ bill, which has hundreds of reforms and regulations aimed at cutting regulations and encouraging economic growth.

The omnibus bill is currently being debated in congress, and it is these discussions that the ongoing weekly protests, and the strike, are attempting to influence. Thousands

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