Commentary. The strike is part of a radical clash against a project of savage capitalism – as outlined by Milei in his speech at the recent Davos forum. This situation is pushing Argentina towards unpredictable scenarios.

Milei says he wants a society without a state – he’s building a market without a society

“In both content and form, President Javier Milei’s political project is an attempt to establish an authoritarian and autocratic regime in Argentina. It is an undercover reactionary constitutional reform,” reads the political platform of the national general strike called on Wednesday by labor unions and a number of Argentine human rights movements and groups, such as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

The strike is part of a radical clash against a project of savage capitalism – as outlined by Milei in his speech at the recent Davos forum – which has drawn the concern and focus of Latin American leftists and progressive movements.

In a little less than a month after assuming the presidency on December 10, Milei put forward a Decree of Necessity and Urgency (DNU), which amended or abolished more than 300 laws related to various sectors of the economy (rents, pensions, land management, the state production of medicines, energy, the distribution of basic necessities and protection guarantees for national industry, among many others).

This was essentially a radical deregulation of the Argentine economy, favoring international and local monopolies. Just 10 days later, the DNU was followed by the so-called “Omnibus Law.” Once again, this is a package of hundreds of laws, amounting to around 600 articles, dubbed the “Starting Point for the Freedom of Argentines.” It declares a state of public emergency in the areas of economy, finance, tax, security, defense, energy, health, administration and society. The state of emergency is set to last until 2025, but it can be extended for another two years.

The law essentially gives the president legislative powers in addition to his executive powers, for the entire duration of his term, allowing him the freedom to rule by decree.

The prospect is of a state reduced to only fiscal and social control duties. President Milei “is taking advantage of the negative view of Congress and traditional politics to set aside the institutions of liberal democracy and concentrate all political power in his hands,” says a document in support of the strike signed by dozens of intellectuals, activists and trade unionists. In accordance with this plan, which includes the repression of protests and the opposition, President Milei has proceeded to revamp the leadership of the Armed Forces, in a move that “further deepens (Argentina’s) alignment with the United States and Israel and prepares for a possible repressive scenario.”

While Argentina is experiencing the worst inflation in the world with a 211.4% year-on-year inflation rate – which even surpasses that of beleaguered and threatened Lebanon (192%) – on Wednesday, the “Omnibus Law” was being debated in Parliament, where the “friendly opposition,” i.e., the non-Kirchnerist opposition, was proposing a series of amendments. At the same time, many tens of thousands of Argentines were on strike protesting against it, watched over by a massive deployment of police forces.

This situation is pushing Argentina towards unpredictable scenarios in what is looking like a continent-level political confrontation against Milei’s project. He says he aims at a society without a state, but he’s creating a pure market without a society. Or, in other words, a society in which those at the top stay there, without having to face the presence and threat of those at the bottom.

Milei made this clear in his speech in Davos. “He doesn’t like the current world order and wants to change it. He has a project of the West without cracks, without contradictions, without barriers,” says Argentine professor and analyst Miguel Mazzeo.

Milei’s political “manifesto” in Davos – with its implementation in Argentine politics – represents the rise of an ultra-right that is less apathetic and more skeptical of Latin American progressivism. This should give leftists pause for thought, on a continent that is looking at the real possibility, if not probability, that Donald Trump could be re-elected to the White House.

In several countries of the South – Ecuador, Peru, the Colombian opposition, among others – the “Bukele model” is being openly praised. The autocratic president of El Salvador is celebrated for having routed the pandillas, the organized criminal gangs, while flouting human rights, and is also famous for building a mega-prison under military control.

Cuba is very concerned about these developments. Since early February, the Cuban government has been preparing to implement a package of as-yet-unspecified reforms “to stabilize the economy.” The measures include price increases in energy and various services, cuts in subsidies to sectors with higher consumption and a new exchange rate to curb the fall of the Cuban peso. As President Díaz-Canel admitted, these are painful measures, but “necessary to preserve the Cuban social project.” Certainly, this project is also threatened by domestic political mistakes, but more than anything else, it must contend with the 60-year hostility of the U.S. – and now also with that of the ultra-right across the subcontinent.

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