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Argentina: unions call for general strike against Javier Milei's policies

Javier Milei will not have had a state of grace.

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Argentina: unions call for general strike against Javier Milei's policies

Javier Milei will not have had a state of grace. Starting at midday, this Wednesday, January 23, Argentine workers are called to a general strike by the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), the most powerful union in the country, followed by other organizations to protest against government policy. The trade union denounces the all-out deregulation measures taken by the Argentine president to revive the country's economy undermined by three-digit inflation and a colossal debt. This is the first large-scale social movement since the inauguration of the ultraliberal candidate, 45 days ago, a record precocity for a general strike.

In addition to the work stoppages, the unions are also preparing a “massive” demonstration in front of Congress in Buenos Aires. They intend to put pressure on Argentine deputies so that they revoke the “decree of necessity and emergency” (DNU) and not vote for the “omnibus law” and its 664 articles currently under discussion in Parliament.

The two texts provide for deregulation and price liberalization measures in numerous hitherto subsidized sectors, the privatization of public companies and even an in-depth reform of labor law. This last provision is strongly criticized by the CGT, which sees it as calling into question social achievements. The union, which claims 2.5 million members in 2023, calls on its X account for "mobilization, on January 24, to defend workers' rights, severance pay, collective agreements, social security, and right to work. »

At its side, the CGT can count on the support of the Central Workers of Argentina (CTA), another major union in the country, as well as that of the transport, construction, farmers and economic workers unions. informal. “They are mobilizing to test the social terrain and show their claws against the government,” analyzes Carlos Quenan, Argentine economist and vice-president of the Institute of the Americas. However, “the unions are well aware of the legitimacy of the newly elected president” adds the researcher. Hence their call for a strike limited to just half a day.

But Javier Milei has already stepped up to the plate against this mobilization which he perceives as a symptom of the coexistence of “two Argentinas”. The 55-year-old president accused the demonstrators of wanting to “remain in backwardness, the past and decadence”, and opposed them to those who put themselves “on the path to development”.

The social movement comes in a gloomy economic context for Argentina, where inflation rises to 211% over the whole of 2023. The purchasing power of Argentines has fallen sharply and more than 40% of the population now lives in poverty, according to statistics provided by the government. To remedy this, the executive is banking on a “macroeconomic shock” caused by the devaluation of more than 100% of the Argentine peso, which, for the moment, aggravates more than corrects the rise in prices.

Also readArgentina: inflation over 200% in 2023

The general strike to challenge government policy follows a series of spontaneous mobilizations including that of December 20, at the call of left-wing organizations, shortly after Mr. Milei's first measures. With only 25,000 people, the demonstration, only authorized on the sidewalks according to the strict protocol decided by the Minister of Security, did not take on the scale hoped for by its organizers. This January 24, the union centers say they are expecting up to 200,000 people in front of Congress.

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