Argentina: second general strike against ultraliberal President Javier Milei

No train, no bus, no metro for twenty-four hours: the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, should ring hollow on Thursday, May 9, without a large part of the three million people who transit there every day, the majority by public transport

Argentina: second general strike against ultraliberal President Javier Milei

No train, no bus, no metro for twenty-four hours: the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, should ring hollow on Thursday, May 9, without a large part of the three million people who transit there every day, the majority by public transport . Some 400 flights will also be canceled, affecting 70,000 passengers, according to the Latin American Air Transport Association.

After five months of governance by President Javier Milei, marked by the launch of an austerity program, the second general strike "against a brutal adjustment, in defense of labor and union rights, and to a decent salary", launched by several unions, including the powerful Peronist CGT, promise to be followed. Much more than that of January 24 (only twelve hours), a semi-failure mocked by the government as the “fastest strike in history” because it was announced in December 2023, eighteen days after the inauguration of Mr. Milei.

This time again, the Argentine presidency denounces a "strictly political" strike and unions "breaking records for speed and number of strikes", facing a government "barely taking office". Unions that go “against what people voted for five months ago,” she adds.

The political impact, however, could be less than the large marches in defense of the university on April 24 (a million demonstrators across the country), the strongest mobilization hostile to Mr. Milei to date, and “a lesson for him: the first time he hit a wall in public opinion, because what was at stake was a collective, transversal good,” estimates political scientist Gabriel Vommaro.

But “for this reason, it should not be overinterpreted,” the analyst hastens to add to Agence France-Presse. Because, elected as a “providential man who arrived to resolve problems that the previous elites had left lying around”, Javier Milei “retains in public opinion cores of support unscathed, or at least fairly solid”.

An image that remains positive

In fact, despite a slight shift in April, several recent polls see Mr. Milei oscillating between 45% and 50% positive image – he was elected with 56%. A form of spectacular stability for a ruler who inflicted, in a few months, between devaluation, freed prices, spending and "cut" public aid, "the greatest adjustment in the history of humanity", as the the anarcho-capitalist likes to remind us.

In addition, the corrosive Milei, “without changing his personality and his aggressive speech”, is undergoing “a political apprenticeship”, considers Rosendo Fraga, political scientist at the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences.

As such, the adoption, at the end of April – at least in the Lower House – of his set of deregulatory reforms, an amended, narrowed, planed project, is “important”: it shows a president “more flexible in practice, softening the ideology", and who "can articulate a coalition to govern, despite its weak strength" of thirty-seven deputies out of 257.

Concerns about “after Milei”

Decelerating inflation – from 25% for the month of December 2023 alone to 9% predicted for April – or a worrying recession, with – 3.2% decline in activity over one year? “A historic feat”, says the Argentine president, of a budget with a surplus in the first quarter, unprecedented since 2008, or a dark record of poverty (41.7% officially), at levels that we no longer had seen since 2006?

Depending on whether they focus on the balance of accounts, the reduction in “country risk”, or on the microsocial impact, job losses, opposition and government send clues to each other: “Useless sacrifice of the people", denounces ex-president Cristina Kirchner. “Our plan is working,” trumpets Javier Milei.

But economists, including liberal ones, are worried about “what’s next.” “Milei has (…) only one variable in mind: inflation,” said Carlos Rodriguez, once close to the new president. The adjustment plan is simply to pay nothing, with, in these first months, a reduction in costs in all sectors. But I don't see a plan. »

Beyond the strike, which seems destined to in no way change the policy followed, it is difficult to predict which, a recovery or fed up, will be felt first. “The limit to adjustment is imposed by those who are adjusted and their capacity for resistance,” concedes Carlos Heller, a former banker and opposition MP.