The first week of Javier Milei’s administration in Argentina has been marked by controversial policies and significant changes. Despite his strong campaign against the “castes” that profited from previous governments, Milei has already made decisions that contradict his promises of freedom and transparency.
One of the first actions taken by the new president was the reversal of a 2018 rule that prohibited relatives of elected officials from holding positions in public administration. This move raised eyebrows and led to allegations of nepotism as Milei appointed his sister Karina Milei as the general secretary of the administration. Karina’s role involves assisting the president in various duties, such as public relations, drafting communiqués, and handling public policy.
Another contentious policy introduced by Milei’s administration was announced by Patricia Bullrich, the Minister of National Security and a contender in the presidential elections. Bullrich introduced a regulation that threatens to arrest protesters who block streets during demonstrations. While Bullrich argues that such protests cause disorder and non-compliance with the law, critics argue that this regulation infringes on the constitutional right to peaceful assembly. Gabriel Solano, head of the social organization Polo Obrero, even suggested that Bullrich should urge Congress to declare a state of siege if she wishes to abrogate constitutional provisions.
The upcoming countrywide strike, scheduled to oppose Milei’s economic policies, will serve as the first real test of Bullrich’s regulation. Milei’s campaign slogan, “el que corte no cobra” (meaning “who cuts, does not receive”), implies that street protesters will not be eligible for social assistance. Bullrich emphasized this threat in a recent radio appearance, contradicting the previously highlighted slogan of “viva la libertad, carajo” (meaning “long live freedom, damn”). These conflicting messages call into question the sincerity of Milei’s commitment to freedom.
Milei’s economic plan, often referred to as the “Chainsaw Plan,” is another aspect of his administration that has raised concerns. The plan, unveiled by Minister of Economy Luis Caputo, involves cutting expenditure, reducing subsidies, canceling tenders, and devaluing the peso. This plan aligns with Milei’s campaign emblem, a chainsaw symbolizing his commitment to cutting public expenditure. However, there has been no mention of the dollarization of the economy, which was a significant campaign promise.
The impact of the Chainsaw Plan was immediately felt by the public. Gasoline prices rose dramatically after the plan’s announcement, with Shell raising prices by approximately 37% and state-owned YPF increasing them by around 25%. Additionally, the peso has lost value, with one US dollar soon set to be equivalent to 800 pesos compared to the current rate of 365 pesos. Import duties on dollar purchases and withholding taxes on non-agricultural exports are also included in the plan.
Other measures in the plan include halting public works notifications and ongoing bids, reducing subsidies for energy and transportation, minimizing funding for the provinces, and implementing government budget cuts that will result in the reduction of ministries and secretariats. These actions have been praised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as audacious steps to improve public finances and protect vulnerable segments of society.
Overall, Milei’s first week in office has been filled with controversial policies and actions that contradict his campaign rhetoric of freedom and transparency. The appointment of his sister to a high-ranking position, the threat of arresting protesters, and the implementation of the Chainsaw Plan have all sparked criticism and concern. Only time will tell if these policies will deliver the promised economic improvements or further exacerbate the challenges faced by Argentina.