On February 2, the text, lavishly christened “Basic Law and Starting Points for the Independence of Argentina,” took an important first step. Congress passed the bill with 144 votes in favor and 109 against.
Hours before the vote, Javier Mille sent a warning to MPs: “The time for debate is over. It is time for legislators to decide whether they are on the side of Argentine independence or the privileges of a corporate republic.”
The news betrayed a certain excitement. Miley's Party, La Liberté Avance has only 38 representatives in the hemicycle. Parliamentary weakness forced the government to make several concessions to reach agreement on the law.
More than a hundred articles – including the entire tax division and the privatization of oil giant YPF – have been overlooked. Despite intense debate in the chamber, most of the speech was ultimately negotiated behind closed doors in the offices of parliament speaker Martin Menem, angering opposition ranks. “There are no words to describe how shamefully this law has been treated.” Miriam Bregman, Left MP
Javier Mili, an anti-establishment candidate, was elected president of Argentina
Mass privatization and full powers
Anger has also increased in the streets. For three evenings, thousands of people demonstrated tearfully in front of a completely closed Congress and in the face of an impressive police force. “Homeland is not for sale”.
The law passed by Congress provides for the privatization of about forty companies (including the public channel Delaware, the Post Office, Aerolinas Argentinas, and all railroad companies). “We know very well what these privatizations mean because we already experienced it in the 1990s under (Carlos) Menem… There will be massive layoffs,” Mariano, the train driver, who already knows he's in the hot seat, explains. Over the course of several weeks, he noticed that the frequency of the trains he drove was cut in half: “Government destroys our work so people accept privatisation”, He protests.
Patricia, a nurse in her fifties, worries about the “economic emergency”. Still in the new version of the law, this exceptional measure would allow the executive to rule without parliament for a maximum of two years in several key areas. “As someone who lived through the dictatorship (1976-1983), I have no words to express what I feel… How did we get to this point?”
In Argentina, Javier Mille has already tested the streets: “Mili believes he can do what he wants with Argentina, and the people will let him do it”
“Aggressive Chemicals” Used by Police
The day before the text was approved, around 9 p.m., demonstrators were only a few hundred in Congress Square when motorized police engines began to roar. Seconds later, the police fired rubber bullets to shouts from the activists. In all, about a hundred people were injured, including several in the head. Among them, around thirty journalists and members of several human rights organizations, including lawyer Matías Aufieri, suffered serious eye injuries.
Earlier in the day, a man was writhing in pain on the sidewalk, his face red. As observed he got a highly irritating toxic liquid on his face Free, many demonstrators suffered severe skin pain for days. Facts confirmed the next day by the Centro de Estudio Legales y Sociales (CELS). The organization, which filed a complaint with the US Court of Human Rights, confirms that “According to several photographic evidences, these harsh chemicals were sprayed directly into the faces of the protesters for no other reason than to disperse them.”
The second round is scheduled for next Tuesday
Defense Minister Patricia Bulrich, who in early December unveiled new “regulations” criminalizing demonstrations, uses this disproportionate force against the backdrop of tight security.
Opposition representatives walked out of the House condemning the police action. Even ranks of UCR (centre-right) moderates, who mostly voted for the law, described the police's methods as “A dangerously repressive advance spurred by the administration.”
This demonstration of power is not meant to confirm this centrist edge, which has historically been associated with democratic values. However, their voices will weigh heavily during the second act of this legislative battle — a “specific” vote on each chapter of the legislation — scheduled for next Tuesday.
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