Congress opening speech: Milei promises to criminalize monetary emission and strip collective bargaining power

In an apparent olive branch after recent disputes, the president also invited governors and lawmakers to sign a 10-point ‘May 25th pact’

By Facundo Iglesia in Congress and Amy Booth

President Javier Milei promised to send an ‘anti-caste’ bill to Congress that would make financing the state by printing money into a crime against humanity, he said during a speech for the opening of sessions.

Speaking for just over an hour, the president blamed Argentina’s current economic crisis on the previous government, saying the economy was currently “metabolizing the economic crisis we inherited” and claiming state funds were being used as “war booty for leftist organizations.”

He also announced a series of further planned cuts, including the planned closure of public news agency, Télam.

He promised to prevent politicians from using official planes except for strictly official business, forbid them from accumulating air miles for personal use from their work-related travel, and also slash the government’s fleet of cars.

In what he dubbed an ‘anti-caste bill,’ he vowed to send proposals to end privileged pensions for former presidents and vice presidents, require unions to elect their leaders in elections overseen by the electoral commission, and subject union leaders to term limits. He also said that collective bargaining arrangements at individual companies would be privileged over sector-wide arrangements.

The bill would also prevent individuals with corruption convictions from running for public office, he said.

‘May pact’

In what appeared to be an appeal to cordiality after weeks of dispute between lawmakers, governors and the national administration over funding cuts and the collapse of Milei’s virgin reform package, he invited political leaders to sign a ‘May pact’ in Córdoba on May 25, a national holiday commemorating Argentina’s May Revolution.

The pact, he proposed, would be centered around ten key principles:

  • Inviolability of private property
  • Non-negotiable fiscal balance
  • Reduction of public spending by 25% of GDP
  • Tax reform to alleviate tax pressure and promote trade
  • Rediscuss federal tax revenue sharing system and end the current “extortive” system
  • Progress on exploiting the country’s natural resources
  • Modern labor reform to promote formal employment
  • Pension reform to make the system sustainable
  • Structural political reform to “align the interests of the representatives and the represented”
  • Open international trade so Argentina can be a protagonist of the global market

His speech ended at 10:05 p.m.

Politicians react

Former President Mauricio Macri, who has supported Milei, called the speech a “clear, firm and courageous message,” calling on the population and politicians in particular to accept the May Pact invitation as a “gesture of humility and greatness.” 

Governors Rogelio Frigerio (Entre Ríos) and Ignacio Torres (Chubut) and Buenos Aires City Mayor Jorge Macri had appeared to accept Milei’s invitation at the time of writing. Frigerio said that “this is what Argentina needs.” Torres wrote: “I celebrate and accompany President Milei’s call.”

With his message, in which he pointedly noted that he and the president agree on “respect for federalism,” Torres appeared to accept a peace offering. On March 23, he had threatened to cut Chubut’s oil and gas deliveries to the rest of the country in a feud with the national administration after it cut tax revenues to the province.

Martín Tetaz (UCR) told the Herald on the sidelines of the chamber that he welcomed what he called “a turning point” for Milei’s administration. 

“[The government] comes from rapidly wearing down his relationship with the governors in these first months, particularly with Córdoba,” he said. He added that choosing Córdoba for the meeting shows “an intention to make a turn and to reconcile and seek a political agreement.”

“I think it’s wise, I think it’s correct,” he said, adding that he agrees with almost every element in the May Pact.
Cristian Ritondo, head of the PRO bloc in the chamber of deputies, felt the government had been consistent in its direction, saying he had always felt heard. “If the government is trying [to have a dialogue], but the rest do not want to speak, nobody will speak,” he told the Herald. “The president is simply making a new call now […] I am happy.”

The president’s speech was well-received by Argentina’s grains exporters. In a statement, the vegetable oil industry and grains exporter chambers (CIARA-CEC) encouraged governors to accept Milei’s invitation. They described it as “powerful, clear, and precise in the path to take to exit this deep economic and social crisis.”

UxP deputy Pablo Carro said Milei’s quarrels with governors and mayors show his clear disdain for legislative activity. “He believes that he was chosen to carry out his plan from heaven and that he is convinced that he has the support for it,” Carro told the Herald, adding that the president rejects “any kind of opposition or questioning.”

Carro also pointed out that Milei failed to announce any measures for the poor. “He said that the cost would be paid by the caste, and the caste is celebrating.”

‘Everything is getting more expensive’

Outside Congress, hundreds of demonstrators gathered to protest Milei and his austerity measures. “Because of his measures, everything is getting more expensive — with my pension, I could buy 100 kilos of beef, now I can buy 40kg,” said Raúl Maldonado, 66, a retired metal worker. “If this guy has a heart, [I hope] he will announce a measure that gives us some hope.”

He was carrying a cardboard cutout of a coffin that read “There is no inflation in cemeteries.” “The way he wants to lower inflation is by starving us to death,” he explained. “I want the solution now, not in thirty years.”

At the intersection of Entre Ríos and Rivadavia, just outside the fenced area, Paulina Leonor Eite, 80, was holding a sign with a picture of a lion that read “Cajas, afuera,” referring to the slashing of what Milei calls “political black boxes.” Pointing to the protest against Milei, she said that former President Cristina Kirchner and the defunct Peruvian guerrilla group Shining Path were financing them to install a communist regime. “This is a coup,” she said.


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald