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ARGENTINA | 14-12-2023 19:45

Milei moves to limit anti-austerity protests in Argentina

Security Minister Patricia Bullrich has announced that Argentina’s federal forces will intervene in any protests or street blockades conducted without a permit.

President Javier Milei is moving preemptively to curb protests against his austerity measures in Argentina, which include deep budget cuts and reduced subsidies for energy and transportation.

Security Minister Patricia Bullrich announced that Argentina’s federal forces will intervene in any protests or street blockades conducted without a permit. Authorities will use minimum force and escalate it depending on the resistance they face until the streets are cleared, she told reporters Thursday afternoon.

“The law is not obeyed in part. The law is obeyed in full,” the minister said.

Bullrich, who was also security chief under former president Mauricio Macri, added that all those who organise, finance and participate in any unauthorized actions would be sanctioned. Social movements or other parties involved in planning protests would pay the costs required to maintain order, not the state, she said.

Leftist labour group Polo Obrero on Wednesday called for an immediate strike and a “massive concentration” on Decemnber 20 in the Plaza de Mayo, a historic Buenos Aires square in front of the presidential palace that’s been the scene of many of the country’s most important events.

The union anticipates Milei’s economic measures, including a 54 percent currency devaluation combined with spending cuts totaling 2.9 percent of gross domestic product, will fan inflation and lead to layoffs and salary cuts.

Milei is seeking to ease the economic pain for the most vulnerable Argentines by boosting certain social welfare programmes by as much as 100 percent. His plan aims to tame Argentina’s runaway inflation, which surpassed 160.9 percent annually in November and is expected to accelerate even further following the devaluation.

Economy Minister Luis Caputo didn’t rule out the possibility of social unrest over the new measures. But, speaking in a TV interview Wednesday night, he assured that the government is prepared to face those who resist its austerity drive.

Presidential Spokesman Manuel Adorni signaled earlier Thursday that Bullrich would step in to limit potential protests. “Within the law, everything. Outside the law, nothing,” Adorni said at an impromptu news conference after a cabinet meeting — repeating a phrase used by Milei when asked how he intends to deal with popular opposition to his shock-therapy program.

by Manuela Tobias, Bloomberg

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