The application of neoliberal-libertarian dogma has plunged Argentina into its worst crisis in more than two decades in the space of a hundred days, thanks to a government that has – deliberately – pulverized the purchasing power of workers and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises alike: its anti-inflation strategy consists of liquefying incomes, i.e. making prices stop rising simply because nobody can buy anything anymore.

In just one month, poverty rose from 49.5 to 57.4 percent of the population, and Unicef estimates that 70 percent of children could be in this situation. From December 2023 to January this year, pensions and retirement benefits fell by 38 percent, while public salaries fell by 27 percent, and 86 percent of public works were paralyzed.

In addition, the prices of transport, electricity, housing, and prepaid medical services have risen by more than 100 percent, as the regulations that protected citizens from corporate greed have come to an end. And so that citizens could only be informed by their trolls and friendly media, it was decided to destroy all public communication companies: news agencies, television stations, film institutes…

The measures implemented are aimed at creating a model that is dependent on external demands to guarantee the payment of the debt. With Milei, Argentina became a decisive battleground for the imposition of US global hegemony.

Milei spoke to a group of businessmen gathered at the Businessmen’s Forum of the Americas, where he boasted of having carried out “the biggest adjustment in the history of humanity” and announced with a gesture of satisfaction that he was going to fire 70,000 state employees. The moral: the businessmen applauded the plan that hurt them.

Even the International Monetary Fund warned Milei of the dangers of an adjustment that combines social rejection, lack of political sustainability, and lack of consistency in its economic foundations, a real explosive cocktail with no end in sight to a social explosion.

Rodrigo Valdés, Director of the IMF’s Western Hemisphere Department, participated in the same economic forum as Milei, where he pointed out the need to support the most vulnerable sectors of the population “so that the adjustment does not fall on workers and productive sectors” and stressed the need to “improve the quality of fiscal adjustment, not the quantity”. He insisted that “effective and quality policies that can be sustained over time are needed”.

Following the visit of CIA chief William Burns, who warned the government of “nothing, but nothing” with China and, like his predecessors half a century ago, he supported the involvement of the military in internal security.

Milei immediately launched an attack on the region’s progressive presidents – insulting Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Mexico) and Gustavo Petro (Colombia) – and welcomed to his embassy in Caracas eight opponents wanted by the courts for acts of sabotage and attempted murder, in a clear attempt to disrupt any steps towards regional integration.

The US ambassador Marc Stanley, speaking at the annual dinner of the Centre for American Studies in Argentina (CEA) on 30 August, had already laid out the path the country should follow, a simple and linear model: that Argentina should focus on producing energy and food for export, using this income to pay its debts and importing the rest.

“Argentina can supply the world with energy and food to help its economy recover and grow (…) The Vaca Muerta field in Neuquén has the potential to attract additional investment from the United States, generate more exports for Argentina, stabilize its economy, and provide its allies around the world with many more much-needed sources of energy,” he said.

Beyond his dependence on Washington’s dictates, Milei is intent on isolating Argentina from the world: he has put himself at odds with six of Latin America’s most important economies. And when the whole world, including European governments, calls on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the genocide of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Milei is the only one who justifies the cruelest mass slaughter of civilians in this millennium.

The structure of his discourse seeks to generalize and demonize to destroy any tool that implies solidarity and unity, and at the same time to legitimize the privileges of the elites, because they are the “heroes of this story”, as Milei says.

Anatomy of a Nervous Government

Milei is a symptom of the crisis of representation that affects the entire political system. Only a dissatisfaction with traditional politics of this magnitude can explain why the government retains a (smaller than any previous government) but still considerable support.

Last week, Mileinato initiated thousands of new layoffs in the state and announced that the meager pensions would be paid in two installments. All this comes on top of an adjustment that has been going on for months, and new tariffs are already arriving that could reach 700%.

Milei finally found opposition in the big march on 24 March for “Never again a dictatorship” and in memory of the 30,000 disappeared. But the immense mobilization made it clear once again that the street cannot be won by big actions alone.

The retreat into silence of a large part of the Argentinean population, which began during the government of Cristina Kirchner with the strong offensive of the opposition media, was the real “winning of the street”, but from the right, points out Luis Bruschtein. To the extent that the discourse of the right is no longer the only one heard in the streets, politics will react or change, he concludes.

The government has felt the impact of the 24th, knowing that both the legislators and the governors – with whom it must negotiate its adjustment policies – have taken note. More than a million people mobilized in the different cities of the country.

And Milei seems nervous, trying to forget the “infidelities” of the Vice-President, Victoria Villarruel, and the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Martín Menem (in the presidential line of succession). The 42nd anniversary of the Malvinas War also separates them.
Milei does not want to share the limelight with his vice-president – especially after she christened him “Jamoncito” (for standing between her and the powerful Karina, the president’s sister and secretary of the presidency) – but neither does he want their disagreements to further expose the government’s shortcomings. Milei makes no secret of his admiration for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, while Villarruel has a nationalist profile and is the daughter of an ex-combatant.

In addition, he is unhappy with the economy minister, Luis Caputo, because inflation is not falling as he would like, the IMF dollars promised by the minister are not there and he is also beginning to demand that he sort out the social chaos of the adjustment. His frustration was evident in his desperate call for people to “get off their mattresses”. He is confusing people with businessmen.
His nervousness increased when his proposal to elevate the nomination of judges Ariel Lijo and Manuel García-Mansilla to the Supreme Court did not get the support he wanted. Horacio Rosatti, Carlos Rosenkrantz, and Juan Carlos Maqueda, current members of the court, called the nominations “unacceptable”.

Even the US-Argentine Chamber of Commerce and the IDEA business colloquium spoke out, warning of political weakness: if he cannot achieve “governability” in Congress, he needs a court that will at least not put sticks in his wheels, i.e. not reject the decree of necessity and urgency, which is not guaranteed today, despite his pressure and promises.