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ARGENTINA | 02-02-2024 13:14

Congress resumes omnibus bill debate after night of tempers and tension

Lawmakers resume debate over Milei government’s omnibus bill as marathon session enters third day; Tempers now calm but security still heavy after night of police clashes with protesters and complaints in the chamber.

After a night of temper and tensions, lawmakers in the lower house Chamber of Deputies have opened a third day of debate on President Javier Milei’s sweeping Omnibus Law. 

The government is confident it will win approval when the bill is put to a vote, likely late Friday or in the early hours of Saturday morning.

La Libertad Avanza, a minority in the lower house, should be able to gain enough support to pass its mega-reform bill, which has been watered down in negotiations with governors and pro-dialogue caucuses. The government is expected to win general approval, but suffer defeats when it is treated article-by-article.

Ruling party lawmakers initially wanted a vote on Thursday night or in the early hours of Friday morning but heated tempers both inside and outside the chamber complicated those plans.

As protesters demonstrated in rejection of the bill at Plaza del Congreso on Thursday night, clashes ensued between the federal security forces and those rallying, leading to several injuries. Police officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators, including those who were on the sidewalk and in the Plaza del Congreso. 

Local press unions later said that at least 20 journalists and photographers had been injured in the violence.

Close to 9pm, after two hours of clashes between protesters and police, left-wing and Peronist lawmakers left the chamber and took to the streets to try to prevent further violence. They demanded, without success, that the congressional session be halted.

Eventually, tempers calmed both inside and outside the chamber and lawmakers continued with their speeches. 

With a long list of speakers still to talk in the chamber, new points on the negotiating table and no vote in sight, the government changed plans. The decision was made to call recess and return Friday morning for a third day of debate.

The ruling party remains optimistic it will win general approval for the bill, even though it is not finished. Opposition lawmakers complained throughout the day that negotiations were ongoing and that they were discussing a text that kept changing.

 

– TIMES/NA

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