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ARGENTINA | 08-03-2024 12:42

Amid anger at pay hikes, Milei trolls feminists on International Women’s Day

Following controversy over lawmakers' pay hikes, President Javier Milei’s administration trolls feminist campaigners on International Women’s Day by announcing it will rename the Casa Rosada’s “Salón de las Mujeres.”

In an inflammatory move timed to coincide with International Women’s Day, President Javier Milei’s government has announced it will rename a room named after women in the Casa Rosada presidential palace.

Milei’s chief spokesperson, Manuel Adorni, delivered the news at his daily press conference. 

He said the ‘Salón de las Mujeres’ (“Women’s Hall”) would be renamed the ‘Salón de los Próceres’ (“Heroes’ Hall”). 

Images of historical female figures would be replaced with new ones featuring the image of national icons like José de San Martín, Manuel Belgrano, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Juan Bautista Alberdi, Julio Argentino Roca, he said.

The symbolic move was announced hours before large crowds of feminist campaigners take to the streets to mark International Women's Day, a global day of action in which millions of women around the world mobilise to protest against gender inequality.

The decision to change the name had been decided weeks ago, but it was only announced on International Women's Day, reported Perfil.

Earlier this week, Milei’s government confirmed it would deduct a day’s pay for public employees who joined the Feminist Strike.

"Those who do not go to work will be docked [pay for] the day. But this is not because of [International] Women's Day, it has always been like that. Since the first strike we announced that employees who do not work will have their day deducted," said Adorni.

He said he had no knowledge of any government activity planned to mark International Women’s Day, though he would not rule it out.


Negative headlines

Friday’s controversy comes amid a string of negative headlines for the government. 

With millions struggling to cope with runaway prices and falling purchasing power, it emerged that Lower House Speaker Martín Menem and Vice-President Victoria Villarruel had signed off on a large pay increase for lawmakers. 

National deputies and senators will receive a 30-percent hike in their pay packets for  January and February.

Milei said in a TV interview on Thursday night that he did not agree with the hike.

The move comes with Argentines struggling to cope with 250 percent inflation and more than half of the population living in poverty.

"I understand that they may have needs, but there are 60 percent of Argentines who are poor and more than 10 percent are destitute. So don't tell me that they don't have enough because there are people who are much worse off, with less money," said Milei in a TV interview.

Local media outlets also covered the controversial decision to appoint 23-year-old Geraldine Calvella to head the Directorate of Control of Documentation Centres of the National Registry of Persons (RENAPER).

A La Libertad Avanza supporter with no previous political experience, Calvella studied medicine for two years before dropping out. She began a law degree at the Siglo 21 University last December and was appointed to RENAPER on January 15 this year.

Calvella lists herself as an advisor to the lower house Chamber of Deputies on her LinkedIn social media page. She receives a gross salary of 2,732,002 pesos a month for her role, according to a copy of her pay cheque that went viral online. 

Angry social media users slammed the decision, accusing Milei of using the state to employ party activists on high-paying jobs. 

Milei ran for office affirming that he would clean up Argentina’s “political caste” and fix the nation’s ongoing economic woes. 

He has embarked on a fierce campaign of austerity since taking office.


Karina behind decision

The decision to change the name of the Casa Rosada’s ‘Salón de las Mujeres’ was taken by the president’s sister, secretary general to the Presidency, Karina Milei, confirmed Adorni on Friday.

The room, located on the first floor of the Casa Rosada’s left wing, has been used by Milei’s communications team as a base since last December 10.

Speaking at a press conference, Adorni argued that the room had previously been left “abandoned for 10 years.”

He went on to suggest that having only “women” in its name may be “discriminatory towards men,” and that the fact did not “add value to women as such.”

"All of us in this government value women in general," he claimed.

In addition, he claimed that the room historically occupied by the presidency's communications team – now headed by political strategist Santiago Caputo – had also been left "abandoned."  

Its furniture had not been updated and it had been maintained poorly, he complained.

 

Abortion hint

Milei posted a comment on social media on Friday to mark International Women’s Day.  It featured an image originally created by cartoonist Cristian Dzwonik, otherwise known as ‘Nik,’ a vocal supporter of the government and critic of the Peronist administration that preceded it.

"To all those who fight, work and love, those who have the courage to dare the force of change to achieve Peace, Justice and Equality," begins the message from the cartoonist. 

"To those who forge dreams and illusions and cultivate lives, a big greeting on your day," it concludes. 

Most onlookers saw the last line as a timely reiteration of Milei’s anti-abortion position on International Women’s Day. 

The right wing leader earlier this week restated his position that the termination of pregnancy is “murder aggravated by the familial bond" during a speech in front of schoolchildren, during which he also joked about the sexual prowess of a donkey.

The La Libertad Avanza leader has repeatedly said he would like to repeal Argentina’s abortion law guaranteeing free access to the procedure. 

Milei often likes to rile critics online, sharing posts from users that hail him and slam his enemies. 

He has used his social media platforms, such as X and Instagram, to unleash expletives against lawmakers who did not back his economic reforms, calling them "rats" and publishing their names and photos.

The libertarian and self-described "anarcho-capitalist" has moved to slash state spending, deregulate the economy and shut down government-funded organisations since taking office.

 

– TIMES with NA/PERFIL/AFP
 

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