Massive protests in Argentina against Milei’s government: An in-depth analysis

The streets of Buenos Aires were filled with demonstrators on Wednesday in a historic protest against the government of Javier Milei and his controversial cuts in public spending. Tens of thousands of Argentines took to the streets in a climate of great tension to express their discontent and concern about the measures taken by Argentina’s new president.

Despite the huge police deployment and the Government’s attempts to prevent the cutting of streets, the crowd advanced with banners and drums through the main avenues of the Argentine capital, in a clear message of disapproval towards the policies implemented by Milei.

An unprecedented demonstration

Demonstration called by more than a hundred organizations was the first mass protest against the administration of Milei, who took office as President of Argentina just ten days ago.

Although the original idea of the march was to remember the victims of the violent repression that took place during the end of Fernando de la Rúa’s government in 2001, the spending cuts announced by Milei redefined the purpose of the protest.

This high participation of the demonstrators made it impossible for them to walk only on the sidewalk, as the government intended. They advanced along the entire width of the two avenues that lead to Plaza de Mayo, the epicenter of the protest, and traffic had to be diverted to nearby streets.

Despite the tense atmosphere, the demonstration passed peacefully, except for an isolated confrontation that resulted in two arrests.

Reasons for the protest

Indignation of the demonstrators was evident in the slogans and banners they carried. Thousands of united voices cried out for “workers’ unity” and denounced Milei as a “swindler.” Many expressed concern about the impact of public spending cuts in areas such as education.

A teacher from La Matanza, the largest city in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, raised a banner that read: “Plata para educación, no para el FMI” (Money for education, not for the IMF). According to her, the situation in public schools is desperate, with children going hungry and food prices that have skyrocketed after the devaluation.

Alberto Fernandez, the former president of Argentina, left the government with a year-on-year inflation of 160%, but official estimates for 2024 are even more alarming, reaching four figures. These alarming figures have generated a climate of uncertainty and concern among the population, which has led to an increase in protests against Milei’s economic policies.

Changes in the state’s response to protests

One of the most significant changes in the state’s response to protests in Argentina has been the curbing of picketing, which consists of blocking streets and highways for hours or even days. For decades, there has been great tolerance towards these demonstrations, and even Milei himself and his Security Minister, Patricia Bullrich, have participated in some of them. However, the attitude of the new ultra-right government has been different.

Street control was one of Milei’s campaign promises and has been one of the most popular measures among the population, even among those who are not his voters. According to a survey conducted by the Observatory of Applied Social Psychology of the University of Buenos Aires, 65% of the population agrees with the government guaranteeing free movement.

However, more than 50% of the population opposes other promises made by Milei, such as dollarization, privatization of the state-owned oil company YPF, deregulation of food and fuel prices, and the elimination of energy and public transportation subsidies.

Impact on the most vulnerable sectors

Government has tried to dissuade protesters in recent days, asking them to avoid the participation of children and threatening to withdraw social benefits from those who cut off the streets. This situation has left the poorer population in a difficult position, caught between the social organizations encouraging the demonstration and the Government warning about the negative consequences of participating in the protest.

However, many of the protesters reject the stereotype that they are being forced to protest. Some express despair at not being able to meet their basic needs and point out that Milei has cut their purchasing power with the devaluation.

Economic uncertainty has led to fears of increased poverty and homelessness, which has generated a climate of tension and concern in Argentine society.

Conclusions

Massive protests in Argentina against the Milei government reflect the discontent and concern of the population about the economic policies implemented by the new president. Despite the government’s attempts to control the demonstrations, tens of thousands of Argentines took to the streets to express their disapproval and demand a change in the measures taken.

The state response to the protests has changed drastically, with a focus on guaranteeing free movement and greater control of the demonstrations. However, the demands of the protesters remain clear: a better distribution of wealth, protection for the most vulnerable sectors and a focus on education and social welfare.

Currently the situation in Argentina remains uncertain, but the massive protests are a clear sign that the population is not willing to accept measures that negatively affect their quality of life.

Milei’s government will have to take into account the demands of society and work on solutions that promote sustainable and equitable development for all Argentines.