Demonstrators in Argentina Met With Forced Dispersion

Trent Barr
Trent Barr
Trent has years of experience and training in open source intelligence gathering and journalism. He specializes in Latin American, German, and Vatican affairs, with a broader interest in European politics. Trent serves as the Latin America Desk Chief for Atlas News.

More From Me

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the Palace of the Argentine National Congress on Wednesday to protest against President Javier Milei’s proposed “Bases Law.” During the Senate’s discussion regarding the economic-focused bill, demonstrators were met with forced dispersion tactics by Argentine police after those gathered reportedly threw bottles and stones at authorities.

Demonstrations Met With Force

Demonstrators gathered at subway stations across Buenos Aires in the early hours of the morning in order to organize and mobilize the demonstrations. Those who gathered to protest Milei include the General Confederation of Labor, the Argentine Workers’ Central Union, alongside a number of left-wing organizations within Argentina.

Demonstrators were joined by a number of political figures opposed to the Bases Law, including three members of Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies, the country’s lower house of Congress, who were forced to seek treatment for burns to their eyes from the use of pepper spray. Demonstrators had gathered since early morning, with reports of those opposed to the bill and Milei’s administration blocking streets leading to the Senate, a move that was met with police presence following previous warnings by Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich that blocking streets would result in action by authorities.

“They should not even think of throwing a stone or lifting a tile, because they cannot. There are limits. They want to say that they are against the law, that only words are valid, that stones, sticks, taking over Congress, nothing is valid. We have forces ready to act if they try to use violence,” Bullrich said in a statement.

Due to these demonstrations on the streets, Bullrich enacted the anti-picket protocol, a protocol that seeks to prevent demonstrators from interfering with Argentines’ daily lives by preventing and breaking up demonstrations on major roads, highways, and other access points for important infrastructure such as hospitals and schools. Bullrich has previously warned demonstrators to avoid taking to the streets, telling one such group of demonstrators in April that “the streets are for the citizens. Demonstrations take place on the sidewalks.”

In response to authorities’ attempts to disperse demonstrators, the senator for Mendoza, Anabel Fernández Sagasti, addressed the Senate.

“I want to denounce the repression that is taking place in the Plaza de los Dos Congresos. There are three deputies in [the] hospital; several are being treated in the emergency rooms because they have repressed the nation’s deputies because they were going to accompany the mobilization that is taking place outside against this law,” the senator stated.

In response to police attempts to disperse the demonstration, demonstrators began attacking authorities on the scene, throwing bottles and other projectiles. By 15:30 local time, demonstrators began throwing bottles and stones before turning over a vehicle owned by Cadena 3, an Argentine news outlet, lighting it on fire, and attacking a journalist belonging to the same news outlet, Clarin reports. After demonstrators lit the vehicle on fire, and in response to the throwing of bottles and stones, authorities on the scene utilized water cannons in a further attempt to disperse demonstrators.

Authorities have announced that at least three protestors have been detained at the time of this publication.

Growing Unrest in Argentina

This demonstration follows growing animosity towards President Milei following the president’s controversial budget cuts to a number of government sectors in an effort to revive Argentina’s struggling economy. These cuts have resulted in the firing of fifteen thousand state employees as well as cuts to public universities’ funding.

Key among these complaints against Milei and his administration is the Bases Law, which seeks to address a number of economic issues, including the reinstitution of income tax for single and married workers, a cut on taxation of assets below 100,000 USD, an increase in deductions for family housing expenses, the privatization of a number of state-run companies, and allowing the president further power in fields such as the economic, administrative, financial, and energy sectors for one year.

Javier Milei would often use a chainsaw to demonstrate the then-candidate’s economic plan. (Photo – Tomas Cuesta/Getty Images)

The bill, which was initially labeled the “Omnibus Bill,” has since lost a large number of the articles that it held under its prior name. Originally sitting at 600 articles, the bill now stands at 250 following negotiations between the various political representatives in Congress. There remains the possibility of further cuts amid debates surrounding the bill in the Senate.

This bill has faced a great deal of backlash from both unions and the general populace, with a strike from the nation’s oilseed and maritime worker unions having been held two days prior to the bill passing to the Senate. The bill represents Milei’s continued efforts to revive the Argentine economy through a process of deregulation, a process that the president has deemed to be his “Chainsaw Plan.”

This plan focuses on drastically cutting down on what the President deems unnecessary government spending. This spending, Milei alleges, is the prime cause of the current economic disaster that Argentina is currently facing, further claiming that a “political caste” is responsible.

Demonstrations against Milei’s policies are common; previously, thousands of university students took to the streets of Buenos Aires in late April after universities were forced to shut down due to the president’s cuts. In another protest, the ATE attempted to prevent Milei from attending the annual Llao Llao economic forum by blocking roads leading to the secluded resort that hosts the forum. These attempts ultimately fell flat, as Milei arrived via helicopter in a move that Aguiar claimed was an act of cowardice.

Protestors, many of whom being students, united against Milei’s slashing of public universities’ budgets in April. (Photo – AP)

Aguiar further alleged in a statement that Milei’s government seeks the “delivery of Patagonia [a region consisting of the southern tip of South America] to foreign powers,” before claiming in a later statement that “we are facing a program to colonize Argentina, and Javier Milei is in charge of executing it.”

Despite these criticisms, Milei’s administration has announced the first budget surplus in years while Milei himself has received praise from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which is Argentina’s largest money lender. Shortly after Milei won the presidential office, the government announced Argentina’s first budget surplus in years, a trend which has persevered through April and is likely to continue through May as well.

A chart showcasing Argentina’s recent budget surplus. (Graph – Reuters)

Demonstrations against Milei are sure to continue as the president presses forward with his unpopular reforms to government spending in an effort to tackle Argentina’s economic woes.