BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA — Thousands of Argentines took to the streets of Buenos Aires on Wednesday to protest a decree of sweeping economic reform and deregulation proposed by President Javier Milei.
Marching at the behest of labor unions, the protesters demanded the courts intervene to invalidate the mega-decree they say would carve away worker and consumer protections.
Congress is sitting in an extraordinary session this week, at the request of ultra-libertarian Milei — in office since December 10 — to consider the plan.
The decree would change or scrap more than 350 economic regulations in a country accustomed to heavy government intervention in the market.
Among others, it abolishes a price ceiling on rent, eliminates some worker protections and scraps laws shielding consumers from abusive price increases at a time when annual inflation exceeds 160% and the poverty level has surpassed 40%.
A number of civic groups on Saturday filed a judicial motion to have the decree declared unconstitutional.
On Wednesday, protesters waved Argentine flags and placards reading: “The homeland is not for sale.”
“We do not question the legitimacy of President Milei, but we want him to respect the division of powers. Workers need to defend their rights when there is an unconstitutionality,” construction union leader Gerardo Martinez told reporters at the march.
Milei’s “chainsaw plan” to cut state spending has triggered a series of street protests against the government.
Other aspects of the decree include an end to automatic pension increases, restrictions on the right to strike and easing away from price caps for private health services.
It also terminates about 7,000 civil service contracts in a bid to cut state spending.
Unless Congress scraps the plan in its entirety, the decree will enter into force on Friday.
Milei’s far-right party, Freedom Advances, has 40 of the 257 deputies in Congress and seven of 72 senators.
“The decree is destructive of all labor rights,” said 45-year-old teacher Martin Lucero, who took part in the protest.
“The Argentine people chose Milei as president of the nation, not as emperor,” he said.