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ARGENTINA | 27-12-2023 18:39

Milei vows to hold referendum if Congress does not approve his decree

President says his decree package may be put to a public vote if rejected by Congress; Libertarian leader "slow" legislators and alleges they seek bribes.

President Javier Milei lashed out at Argentina's Congress and legislators on Tuesday, accusing them of “looking for bribes” and slamming their "slowness."

Speaking a day after special sessions opened at the national legislature to debate, among other issues, his sweeping economic deregulation decree, the 53-year-old head of state vowed to put his changes to a public vote if lawmakers reject them.

“It’s contemplated in the Constitution, the problem is they don’t like it, they can’t say it, they want to obtain some benefit to approve the law. It goes against the tricks of the caste. The problem is that with this mechanism they can’t bite,” Milei stated in an interview, confirming he would seek a plebiscite.

Milei, riled by criticism of his decision to try and introduce his changes by decree, said his predecessors iin office had done the same.

“Cristina [Fernández de Kirchner] got tired of signing Urgent Decrees. [Mauricio] Macri also signed a lot, so did Alberto [Fernández], they all do it, but not if I do it... a double standard. 

"It’s because somebody comes and takes away the politicians’ rip-off [scheme], so it’s a no then, and what will they say, that they want to bite? No, they’re going to blame it on formalities," he declared.

He was then asked if he would call a plebiscite if Congress does not approve his urgent decree which would remove or alter more than 300 pieces of legislation.

Milei responded: “Obviously. The mega decree has over 75 percent approval, so please explain to me why they want something against the people."

The president had previously made harsh accusations against lawmakers, saying: “They have no conscience of the gravity of the situation, or they’re underestimating it."

“Knowing that when it enters the machinery of Congress it is so slow that it ruins everything. Part of that slowness is because they’re looking for bribes. Some, I don’t mean all of them. Those arguing about the fine print are looking for bribes. This points against corrupt politicians, that dynamic to sell votes. Watch out, there are a lot of clever people around," he stated.

Milei also pointed out that his "economic programme was welcomed by the market."

“It’s not that the programme is corporate-friendly, it’s competition-friendly and friendly with decent Argentines,” he said.

Quizzed as to whether his opponents were seeking to sink his government, Milei said: "Let them try, let’s see if people let them... three demonstrations in 16 days of government, can’t they accept that they lost?”

Milei defended his attempts to introduce sweeping change, saying that “if [the economic plan] goes wrong everything will explode, but if nothing is done it’ll explode all the same."

"Gradualism has always failed in Argentina. There’s no alternative to shock,” he argued. "Shock minimises the size of recession” because “if you do it, investments will come."

“We’re giving the people a shock of freedom and that goes against the tricks of the caste,” he claimed, adding that his government would start printing 20,000-peso and 50,000-peso notes to deal with runaway price hikes.

Asked about potential salary increases for public servants to counter falling purchasing power, Milei said simply: “no."

President Milei also talked about his relationship with the owner of social network X, Elon Musk, who could be favoured by his the leader's decree if the billionaire's satellite Internet company Starlink enters the country.

“Elon Musk called me from his personal phone, I was waiting to get his assistant! He was very active about my interview with Tucker Carlson, which was the most viewed interview in the history of mankind,” he claimed (that claim is not possible to verify).

He concluded: “Being president to me is a job. I’m very clear about what I have to do. I was elected to do this, I’m going to do it, I’ll get done what needs to be done."

 

– TIMES/PERFIL

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