Argentine workers cross their arms in a general strike this Wednesday (24), when they intend to fill the streets across the country to protest against the neoliberal adjustment proposal that President Javier Milei is trying to implement. The government, in turn, sharpens its claws and once again promises a hard line to repress the protesters in accordance with its security protocol, just as it had done, unsuccessfully, in the previous protest, in December, when the planned route was followed and arrived at its destination.
The CGT (General Confederation of Labor), which called for the strike, intends to carry out mobilizations in all squares in all provincial capitals, to demand that deputies not approve the so-called Bus Law, a package of more than 300 measures that Milei tried to impose on from decree in December 2023. As he was prevented from doing so by court decision, he needs Congress’ approval. That is why the headquarters of the Legislature will be the final point of the march planned for the capital, Buenos Aires.
As the days went by and the strike was imminent, plans began to emerge at Casa Rosada, the seat of government, to try to control the demonstration, to order it in some way, to prevent important avenues from being blocked. The feeling regarding this intention was summarized in the words of Pablo Moyano, deputy secretary of the Truck Drivers Union, member of a well-known family in Argentine union circles. The demonstration will be “uncontrollable given the number of workers mobilized”, said the union leader.
According to him, no one intimidates workers “with fines or soldiers”. With a single sentence, he retorted the security protocol and also the government’s threat to deduct the day from all public employees who join the general strike, even opening a telephone line for complaints against people who “force” a worker to cross arms — even though the right to strike is enshrined in the Constitution.
Moyano also mocked the government’s protocols and asked if they wanted the organizers to carry the protesters in their arms. “How are we going to respect the protocol? Should I carry the 40,000 truck drivers I’m going to mobilize on my lap? Or in single file? It’s impossible”
Patricia Bullrich, the defeated candidate in the last election who became Minister of Security, responded using the same expression. “Moyano can carry them if he wants, but we will enforce the protocol as much as we can. It is our obligation to tell society that they are free to see, when they get up in the morning, whether there is a blockage or not,” he said. in a radio interview Playin reference to what he considers an excess of demonstrations that harm traffic.
The minister anticipated that the government will work to ensure that “people have as much normality as possible, trying to ensure that, if they go to Congress, the adjacent streets are not completely occupied.” Bullrich described the strike as “an unmeasured reaction” and stated that the CGT “slept a nap for years”, criticizing the union central’s stance during Alberto Fernández’s government (2019-2023).
Regarding the anti-blockade protocol, Moyano argued that it is an attempt by the minister to “demonstrate authority” before “her principals, the corporations that currently govern the country”. “We assure people that it will be a peaceful mobilization,” she said.
Milei and the so-called “populist model”
Asked about the strike in an interview, President Javier Milei assured that those calling for protests defend “a populist model” that “generated a country with 50% poor and 10% destitute”. He stated that the strike will show that there are two Argentinas and asked: “Do we want this (populist) model or do we want the model that puts us on the path to being a developed country, which is what we propose?”
The president of the State Workers’ Association, Rodolfo Aguiar, responded to Milei: “the president is wrong when he says that the strike will show two Argentinas. Argentina is one, what the strike will clearly show is that there are two models of country If something will start to happen on January 24th, it is that the economic program that the national government intends to implement will begin to take place in the streets.”
The trade unions accuse the president of trying to repeat the failed recipes of the dictatorship and the right-wing governments of Carlos Menem and Macri. “Unfortunately, the price of hunger, suffering, penury will be paid by others. Milei will go down in history as another of those who tried to take Argentina to the bottom and clashed against those who have the dignity to defend their rights”, said deputy Hugo Yasky, linked to the CTA (Central de Trabalhadores de Argentina).
“Milei sees himself as a messianic leader who will return Argentina to that of 1905, a country in which the poor had no rights, in which they were anonymous and suffered hunger in silence, lowering their heads, and in which the few Those who went out to fight were fiercely repressed. This is the country that Milei believes needs to be refounded, which is why he hates populism, that is, he hates Peronism”, he stated.
Planes must stay on the ground
The different aeronautical unions will join the CGT general strike, which could cause complications on flights at different airports in the country. The Aeronautical Personnel Association, which brings together ground workers and is the most numerous in the activity, announced that it will carry out a 24-hour strike, starting at midnight on Wednesday.
“It will not just be workers and retirees, but an enormous majority who will reject this powerful and regressive adjustment, which is driven from Buenos Aires, but which quickly reaches the provinces and all municipalities”, stated Rodolfo Aguiar.
Milei wants to tax lower salaries
After reformulating points of the Bus Law, the government decided to present another project to change the collection of Income Tax on workers’ salaries. The objective is to start charging tax to those who receive a monthly salary of 1.35 million gross pesos (about R$8,100).
This way, around 800,000 people who had stopped paying the tax at the end of last year would pay it again. Currently, only gross salaries exceeding 1.98 million pesos (around R$11,900) are taxed.
Peronist Sergio Massa, the candidate defeated by Milei, criticized the project. Milei himself, when he was a deputy, had supported the reform that eliminated tax collection for this group of workers — a reform authored by Massa, then Minister of Economy.
Editing: Lucas Estanislau