The DNU generated a wave of rejections and a massive march to the Courts of the City of Buenos Aires. Photo: Telam

President Javier Milei presented this Wednesday (27) to the National Congress the “Law of Bases and Starting Points for the Freedom of Argentines”. The megaproject, which proposes the declaration of public emergency in several areas by 2025, has generated intense debate due to its strong privatizing, authoritarian and deregulatory bias.

The so-called “Omnibus Law” (a project that aims for many reforms at the same time) generated an intense debate in Argentine society. The elimination of regulations and the proposed privatization of state-owned companies are central points of controversy. Once presented in Congress, the project will now go through a legislative process that will determine its approval or rejection.

After meeting with his Cabinet to discuss the matter, he went out with his employees to the balcony of the Casa Rosada to greet an emptied Plaza de Mayo, occupied only by journalists and disinterested passersby.

Read also: Argentine workers protest and judiciary accepts complaint against decree

On the other hand, the Confederal Central Committee (CCC) of the CGT declared a national general strike from 11 am on January 24th, which will include a massive mobilization to the national Congress, in repudiation of the Decree of Necessity and Urgency (DNU) of deregulation economic situation dictated by the Government.

The “Omnibus Law” proposes changes in several sectors, from education to security, including the economy and public administration. Among the most notable measures are:

Education reforms: One of the axes of the project directly affects one of the guiding principles of public education: its free nature. One section proposes that universities be subject to fees for non-resident foreign nationals, modifies entry requirements, and changes guidelines for higher education financing.

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Changes to the retirement system: The law aims to give the Executive Branch the power to establish an automatic formula for adjusting retirement benefits at its discretion, according to the “sustainability” of the state. As long as there is no automatic formula, increases will be by decree and only for the lowest pensions, which would flatten the highest ones due to inflation.

Modification of the electoral system: The project proposes to eliminate the Simultaneous and Mandatory Open Primaries (PASO) and change the composition of the Chamber of Deputies, moving to a system of single-member electoral districts. The country would be divided into 254 electoral districts and a deputy would be elected for each one.

Security reforms: A modification is proposed in article 34 of the Penal Code to expand the definition of self-defense, allowing action “in the fulfillment of duty or in the legitimate exercise of right, authority or position”, prioritizing the reason for the public agent and never for the victim. It is also proposed to toughen penalties for protesters, threatening those who disrupt public transport services with arrest and loss of social benefits for protesters. This topic was the subject of much controversy, as it was confused with the law of Due Obedience, of the military dictatorship, which exempted security agents from responsibilities for human rights crimes. However, Judiciary decisions prevent the scope of this law.

Read also: Milei announces decree that dismantles the State and deregulates the Argentine economy

Privatization of public companies: The project includes the privatization of state-owned companies and companies, including Aerolíneas Argentinas; YPF; National Bank; Correo Argentino Mint; ARSAT; AySA; Military Fabrications; Argentine Railways; Télam and the Argentine Air Navigation Company (EANA), among others.

End of cultural promotion laws: Artists were surprised by the proposal to repeal the National Theater Law (24,800), which would eliminate the National Theater Institute (INT), much attacked by the new government. The independent circuit, so prolific in the country, would suffer a severe blow. The National Arts Fund would also be revoked, as would the Book Law.

Reactions and criticism

The project generated a series of reactions and criticisms both nationally and internationally. Various sectors, including politicians, experts and civil society, expressed concern about the scope of the proposed reforms.

Read also: Milei begins to test the limits of democracy in Argentina

Lawmakers from different parties expressed their rejection of the bill, describing it as unconstitutional and undemocratic. Concerns about the concentration of power in the Executive Branch stand out.

The national representative of Santa Fé, Florencia Carignano, assured that Milei’s general law is “absolutely unconstitutional and undemocratic”. Furthermore, she stated that in this way she intends to establish “repressive and control measures that will allow her to carry out her plundering plan” in Argentina. “Try, neither more nor less, to annul the National Congress”, concluded the legislator.

The national deputy of the Unión por la Patria (UxP) Máximo Kirchner questioned Javier Milei’s DNU (decree of necessity and urgency) and the recent submission to Congress, considering that they seek to “block legislative discussion” so that “many of the things” that appear in these initiatives. “Today Mauricio Macri rules,” he said.

Unión por la Patria deputy Daniel Arroyo highlighted that “The law concentrates the entire amount of public power to the president and that it can be extended for another two years; one can discuss various policies that are included in the package, but the main thing is that it gives him absolute power; that is the problem.”

The general secretary of the State Workers’ Association (ATE), Rodolfo Aguiar, guaranteed today that if the DNU joins the omnibus law, “we will be faced with a hidden constitutional reform.” In this sense, he considered that Milei “intends to take over the sum of public power and fiercely dismantle the State”.

Representative Oscar Zago, from the same party as Milei, said this Thursday (28) that pro-government legislators were “surprised” by the scope of the Omnibus Law sent by President Javier Milei to Congress, since “we were not aware of the project content”.

The Minister of Infrastructure and Public Services of the province of Buenos Aires, Gabriel Katopodis, stated that “if Milei manages to advance, he will not only win the cultural battle, but he will break Argentina”. He highlighted that “the brutality of the measures” sent to Congress “forces us to have the quickest and most organized response possible”, since “the consequences of these measures could be irreversible”.

The international media reflected President Milei’s offensive in an attempt to transform Argentina into the “most liberal country in Latin America”. El País, O Globo, Le Monde, among others, referred to the bill sent to Congress that advances the privatization of state companies, criminalizes social protest and destroys social rights. The controversy generated by the proposed measures can be noted.

In several parts of the country, discussions and demonstrations were held to reject the project. Civil society, including bookstores, publishers and other actors, expressed their concern about the repeal of the Book Law and other measures that affect the cultural sector.


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