no transport in Buenos Aires, 400 flights canceled, the country on general strike against the president

no transport in Buenos Aires, 400 flights canceled, the country on general strike against the president
no transport in Buenos Aires, 400 flights canceled, the country on general strike against the president

Five months of government, two general strikes – the second on Thursday – demonstrations of varying scale almost daily: the streets in Argentina are raising their voices in the face of ultraliberal President Javier Milei, still sticking to his austerity program, with initial ambivalent results.

No trains, no buses, no metro for 24 hours: the capital Buenos Aires should ring hollow on Thursday, without a large part of the 3 million people who pass through there every day, the majority by public transport. Some 400 flights will be canceled, affecting 70,000 passengers, according to the Latin American Air Transport Association.

The strike “against a brutal adjustment, in defense of labor and union rights, and a decent salary”, launched by several unions including the powerful Peronist CGT, promises to be followed. Much more than that of January 24 (12 hours only), a semi-failure mocked by the government as the “fastest strike in history” because it was announced in December, 18 days after Milei’s inauguration.

Little impact?

This time again, the presidency denounces a “strictly political” strike and unions “breaking records for speed and number of strikes”, facing a government “barely taking office”. Unions that go “against what people voted for five months ago.”

The political impact, however, could be less than the large marches in defense of the university of April 24 (a million demonstrators across the country), the strongest mobilization hostile to Milei to date, and “a lesson for him : the first time he hit a wall in public opinion, because what was at stake was a collective, transversal good,” estimates political scientist Gabriel Vommaro.

But “for this reason, it should not be overinterpreted,” the analyst hastens to add. Because, elected as a “providential man who arrived to resolve problems that the previous elites had left lying around”, Milei “retains in public opinion cores of support unscathed, or at least fairly solid”.

A supported president

In fact, despite a slight shift in April, several recent polls see Milei oscillating between 45 and 50% positive image – he was elected with 56%. A form of spectacular stability for a ruler who inflicted in a few months, between devaluation, freed prices, “cut-off” spending and public aid, “the greatest adjustment in the history of humanity”, as the anarcho-capitalist likes to remind people.

In addition, the corrosive Milei, “without changing his personality and his aggressive speech”, is undergoing “a political apprenticeship”, considers Rosendo Fraga, political scientist at the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences.

As such, the adoption at the end of April (at least in the Lower House) of its set of deregulatory reforms, an amended, narrowed, planed project, is “important”: it shows a Milei “more flexible in practice, relaxing the “ideology”, and which “can articulate a coalition to govern, despite its weak strength” of 37 deputies out of 257.

“Sacrifice of the people”

Decelerating inflation, from 25% in December alone to 9% predicted for April, or worrying recession, with -3.2% decline in activity over one year? “Historic feat” (dixit Milei) of a budget with a surplus in the first quarter, unprecedented since 2008, or a grim record of poverty (41.7% officially), at levels not seen since 2006?

Depending on whether they focus on balancing the accounts, reducing country risk, or on the microsocial impact, job losses, the opposition and government throw clues at each other: “Useless sacrifice of the people” , denounces former president Cristina Kirchner. “Our plan is working,” Milei trumpets. But economists, including liberals, are worried about “what’s next”.

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