Milei’s facing another battle front. This time, it’s friendly fire

The fracture of the La Libertad Avanza bloc in Congress shows that the grind of political reality is beginning to take its toll

Buenos Aires Herald editorial

It’s been four months since Milei took office with bellicose rhetoric and the vague objective of eliminating “the caste.” The government’s forceful but haphazard attempts to apply its policies have belied a lack of experience and in-house discipline, with all party loyalty fully centralized in the president. Having faced backlash from all fronts and high-profile failures, this week’s resistance came from within La Libertad Avanza (LLA) itself. 

The calamitous lower house defeat of Milei’s flagship omnibus bill laid bare LLA’s ineptitude at negotiating and building support. Just weeks later, a territorial conflict exploded when cash-starved governors rallied around Chubut’s Nacho Torres (PRO) as he threatened to throttle oil and gas deliveries unless Milei coughed up a cool AR$13.5 billion in tax funds.

While there have been attempts by administration members to soothe these past blunders and standoffs, cracks are appearing within LLA as the grind of political reality wears on their wide-sweeping attempts to pull the rug from under the state. 

This week, Oscar Zago, the head of LLA’s bloc of deputies in the Lower House, split from LLA and set up his own minority bloc. The reason? Lower House President Martín Menem (also LLA) canceled a meeting to debate an appointment of the Impeachment Commission one minute before it was meant to start. Zago went ahead anyway, apparently defying party orders. Menem later overrode the appointment of Marcela Pagano, allegedly Milei’s favored candidate.

This led to a flurry of questions and rumors, including to what extent the president’s sister and secretary, Karina Milei, was involved. A shadowy but powerful figure, some media outlets contested that she worked in tandem with Menem to sabotage Pagano’s appointment. She was also the main speaker at an event launching LLA’s bid to become an official political party — according to Argentine electoral law, it’s technically defunct as a coalition. 

Thus, the novelty of LLA reappears as a double-edged sword: a shield its allies use to pardon blunders but a true stumbling block when building policy and strategy. And the administration needs all it can get as it tries to get lawmakers and provincial governors behind its new version of the omnibus bill. With Zago splitting, LLA’s tenuous foothold in Congress seems more fragile.

Earlier this week, libertarian deputy Alberto “Bertie” Benegas Lynch said in an interview that he did not think education should be compulsory. “Freedom also means that if you don’t want to send your child to school because you need him in the workshop, then you can do so,” he told radio station FM Milenium.  

Human Capital Minister Sandra Pettovello was quick to take to social media in defense of schooling, although she did not name Benegas Lynch directly. Presidential Spokesman Manuel Adorni hastily clarified that the LLA deputy’s views were his own. 

That Milei would struggle to govern with a tiny minority in Congress was clear long before last year’s elections. Many were left asking whether he would moderate his virulently antipolitical discourse for the sake of steering the ship, but despite flirtations with the mainstream right, such alliances have been fragile and conditional at best. Apparently, that fragility and a shortsighted lack of loyalty applies within LLA as well.

Perhaps worse than the brutal effects of austerity is the possibility that Milei’s inability to keep order on his own side would make the administration ineffectual as well as eminently destructive. 

What Argentina saw this week, once again, was an administration adrift: proof that a government can be either anti-state or anti-politics but not both. When you’re in power, despising the state and disdaining politics is basically just fighting reality — a reality Argentines have to endure in the meantime.


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