Argentina. The threat of a covert coup

The total deregulation of the economy that Milei intends is to give freedom to the big capitalists in exchange for union and social rollbacks, while the change in political direction goes towards an authoritarian line. Caputo’s measures, Bullrich’s protocol, the DNU and Milei’s omnibus law are a hidden coup.

By Carolina Menéndez Trucco

Countless dark chapters of our history, unfortunately, show setbacks rather than sobering results. We are in a moment that tries to reverse achievements. Javier Milei has not even been in office for a month and already wants to tear down pillars of an entire society. Under the pretexts of fiscal balance, the magnitude of the crisis and inflation that certainly shot up exponentially since his inauguration, he has undertaken a coup journey. Since December 29, 2023, his mega DNU has been in force, a Decree of Necessity and Urgency that provides for a broad deregulation of economic activity, modifying 336 laws at the service of large companies, unconstitutionally destroying a whole series of rights, in especially those of the working class. But a labor court has just suspended the application of said anti-worker chapter.

The announcement of the decree occurred on the night of Wednesday the 20th, after the first large unitary and multi-sector march that mobilized several thousands of Argentines to Plaza de Mayo that afternoon, despite the anti-protest protocol that the security minister, Patricia Bullrich, tried to impose. Until the early hours of that Thursday, Congress was spontaneously filled with pots and pans resounding against official measures.

Questioned for assuming legislative powers, the Executive Branch dropped its second bomb, but this time as a single megabill that includes several retrograde reforms such as the privatization of public companies, changes in the electoral system, tax modifications and the suspension of the current formula of retirement mobility. “There is no alternative to adjustment and there is no alternative to shock,” the president had already made clear in his first speech. But this new adjustment package (the Omnibus Law) of 180 pages and 664 articles, to be discussed in extraordinary sessions convened between December 26 and January 31, is beginning to find opposition in Congress.

Economic and political change

In the new mileist logic of shock, it appears that every democratic right should be attacked in order to “normalize” an economy that has been going from crisis to crisis for decades. The liberfacho not only went against the public sector: the hungry deregulatory plan left no one out. Recently, the streets of the country were filled with marches and banging of pots and pans. Workers in the culture, health, nursing, and education sectors, union groups, left-wing political parties, tenants, different social movements, women’s movements, and dissidents, among others, are activating the resistance.

The thing is that the brand-new president, instead of dealing with “the political caste” as he promised so much, is cruel to the working class, the popular and middle sectors, by firing thousands of contracted state employees, destroying the public assets, repealing the Rental Law, freeing food prices, raising transportation, electricity and gas rates, removing funds from artists and the rest of the sectors, among many other measures, in favor only of capitalists and magnates. To make matters worse, in his end-of-year message, he distorts the past to justify the terrible present and disguise the future. Neither Argentina at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century was a panacea (at the level of the great industrial powers) as he stated, nor will the devastating unfounded adjustment lead us to a better tomorrow, no matter how much “light at the end of the road” is promised.

In Menem’s line (one of his political role models), how was he really going to say what he was going to do so that no one would vote for him? So, the supposed defense of freedom comes in the form of pressure. Milei warns the governors: if they support his omnibus law, he will return them the income tax[1]. He only opens the doors to negotiation with the CGT[2] if they lift the strike. “Let the new government walk,” the bureaucracy of the CGT and the CTA[3] had initially suggested after taking a nap for four years, but finally prepared on January 24 to “overturn Milei’s decree in Justice, in politics and in the streets.” Never before in Argentine democracy has a president had to face a general strike in such a short time, if the bureaucracy does not call it off. In any case, the coming scenario will be one of strong struggles to the extent that the effects of the adjustment have a social impact.

Well, what liberal guarantees can there be in a unilateral game? Apparently, the liberal-libertarian suit is a little too big for the ultra-conservative rhetoric. “It is about avoiding a catastrophe of biblical proportions,” he said on New Year’s Eve on national television, demanding that Congress approves both the DNU with which it seeks to deregulate the economy, and the mega reform project, which is nothing more than a new package of adjustments for society as a whole and an authoritarian subjugation that even seeks to impose a state of siege.

The story naked

The way of narrating the events ends up capturing in the collective imagination how the story is inscribed. That’s why transmitting correct information is so important. The big media doesn’t do it. Regarding the 20D March, for example, intentionally or “by mistake” the headlines limited it to the picketers. But that was not the case. It was a multi-sector march led not only by the picketer wings, but also combative unionism, left-wing political parties, human rights organizations, students, and many who joined independently. Therefore, providing biased and incomplete coverage is intentional reductionism. The editorials The challenges the left faces in a new political stage, and A wrong policy, which weakens the struggle, shed light on the debates within the Left Front Unity.

After all, the end of the story depends on who tells it. As the conservative editorialist of La Nación, Joaquín Morales Solá, mistakenly illustrates in his column The difficult path of the revolution: “Victoria Villarruel, vice president and natural head of the Senate, will have to materialize in reality the revolution that President Javier Milei wrote in a decree with the help of Federico Sturzenegger[4].” Apparently, his studies at Harvard and 58 years of experience in journalism were not enough for him to delve into the history of revolutions. Due to the violation of all the economic and democratic rights that Milei and his government team are carrying towards the entire Argentine people, more than a revolution, it is a covert coup d’état.

[1] Business Income Tax. It also unfairly taxed the top 10% of earners. In September it was changed and it only affected 1%. Milei intends to reinstate it for 10%.

[2] The General Confederation of Labor (CGT)

[3] The Argentine Workers’ Central Union (CTA)

[4] The Doctor in Economics from MIT, Federico Sturzenegger, served as president of the Central Bank of the Argentine Republic between 2015 and 2018 during the presidency of Mauricio Macri and is the architect of the deregulation that Milei announced.