The government’s social media rhetoric is at odds with reality  

The anti-protest narrative presented by Milei's administration cannot obfuscate all the Argentines marching en masse against it

Just 45 days into his presidency, Javier Milei faced the first general strike of his administration — the fastest ever for a sitting president in Argentine history — with people marching in Buenos Aires and major cities across the country. If nothing else, Wednesday’s events showed that Argentina’s tradition of protesting is alive and well. 

But the president chose to downplay its significance. He called it a “political strike” and accused union leaders of wanting to stay in a “decadent past.” Security Minister Patricia Bullrich claimed that only 40,000 people attended the rally in BA City, adding that it was a “very poor” performance.

Although it’s hard to establish how many people were in attendance (the CGT claimed 600,000 marched through the streets of Buenos Aires), the aerial images of Plaza de Mayo and its surroundings showed crowds all over the place, a blatant rebuttal of the image portrayed by Milei and Bullrich.

Opposition to the omnibus bill and the mega-decree was the backbone of the general strike: within the demands, fighting the mega-decree’s labor reform chapter was key. If passed, the reform would mean the loss of many rights for millions of people. The reform is not only resisted by unions and workers; it has also run into various stays mandated by the judiciary due to the unconstitutional nature of some of its provisions. It’s a far cry from Milei’s version that it can all be attributed to a “caste” clinging to its privileges. 

Wednesday’s protest also meant that Bullrich’s hard-line “anti-protest” protocol added another failure to its resumé. Touted as a measure to maintain “order” in the face of protests — it calls for clearing streets blocked by protestors — the protocol is not only unethical and unconstitutional but also impractical. Protests are meant to be visible, meaning that attempts to curtail this characteristic are akin to censoring them.  

The dissonance between the government’s rhetoric and reality continued on Friday night when Economy Minister Luis Caputo announced that they would be dropping the fiscal chapter of the omnibus bill to pave the way for its approval. After saying he was not willing to budge on the contents of the bill and hurling threats at governors on social media, Milei was forced to accept that he would need to accept changes if he wanted his flagship proposal to pass in Congress.  

Mounted perhaps on the fact that most polls show that he still has a positive image of upwards of 50%, the president has been able to sustain an unwillingness to compromise, much less acknowledge that anybody else has a valid point to make. The massive march and the backtracking on the fiscal chapter of the bill, however, are evidence that no matter how hard you try to ignore it, reality will always have the final say. 


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