Protests Break Out in Argentina After Milei Cuts 15,000 Jobs

( – Last year, Javier Milei’s campaign for Argentina’s presidential election focused on cutting the bloated government and reducing spending. Now he’s following through on his promises — but the Buenos Aires swamp is fighting back. The troubled country is now being rocked by a series of massive protests against Milei’s sweeping job cuts.

Slashing the State

Since the 1940s, Argentina, once one of the richest countries in the world, has lurched through a series of economic crises. The latest one began in 2018, with inflation persistently high — last November it hit 143% — and the currency almost worthless. Argentinians prefer dollars, and the Peso sells on the black market at far below the official exchange rate.

Milei blamed the country’s economic problems on the left-wing Peronist ideology that’s dominated Argentinian politics since the mid-1980s and promised to cut wasteful government spending. Argentinians listened to him, and on November 19 last year he defeated his Peronist rival by a landslide.

Now Milei is trying to put his campaign promises into action. He’s cut the number of ministries in the Argentinian government from 18 to nine. He’s trying to deregulate the economy. He’s devalued the currency in an attempt to eliminate the black market. And, of course, he’s trying to cut the government’s bloated payroll.

On April 3, Milei’s spokesman Manuel Adorni announced the government planned to cut 15,000 jobs from the state’s payroll. Adorni said the layoffs were necessary to reform the public sector and help balance the budget, and added that many of the laid-off employees “perhaps did not have a very defined job.” He’s right — the government payroll has been inflated for decades, eating a big share of Argentina’s economy — but the announcement hasn’t gone down well with the terminated workers or the powerful public-sector union, ATE.

Instant Protests

Within hours of the announcement, workers in the ministries Milei plans to close — for example, the National Institute Against Discrimination — poured into the streets to protest against the job cuts. Many of them were wearing ATE T-shirts. Some of the protests turned rowdy, as police tried to move demonstrators away from government buildings and the crowds pushed back.

Now the unions are threatening a general strike in an attempt to block Milei’s reform program before it really gets going. That has economists worried. Milei needs to cut his country’s out-of-control spending if he wants to repair the economy, but a general strike could derail his plans. He needs to find a delicate balance, and in Argentina’s famously volatile politics, that isn’t easy.

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