Argentina protests spending cuts under Javier Milei

Argentina protests spending cuts under Javier Milei

A general strike against public spending cuts has affected much of Argentina, with schools, banks and many shops closed.

Train and metro services were suspended on Thursday, with limited bus services operating.

One of the main union leaders, Hector Daher, said the 24-hour strike was a wake-up call to President Javier Milei.

Mr. Daher urged him to review some cuts to subsidies and social programs.

Mr Milei, a right-wing economist who campaigned with a chainsaw to represent his desire to cut public spending, has begun implementing sweeping austerity measures since coming to power in December.

He said the move was necessary to reduce Argentina’s public deficit and control the country’s inflation rate, which is the highest in the world at nearly 300% a year.

The president criticized the strike, saying his government had made many concessions to unions.

His government has made some strides since he took office, with officials pointing to falling inflation in recent months. But critics say it has come at a cost, with a downturn in economic activity.

A government spokesman described the strike as “purely political”, and said it was “damaging and complicating the lives of many people”.

However, unions have accused Mr Milei’s cuts of doing the same.

“Far from being sustainable, [the cuts] are taking the public sector to such extremes that they will not be able to recover if this continues,” Mr Daher said, according to Diario Democracia newspaper.

Other union leaders have vowed to continue collective action if the Argentine government refuses to ease some of its measures.

Viggo Mortensen, the Lord of the Rings actor who grew up in Argentina, told RTVE that he felt Mr Milei was a “clown” whose administration had been a “total disaster” for the Argentine people.

But others expressed anger at the strike, because while most affected public services, many businesses remained open.

“This hurts us because we sell less,” Cacho, a bingo seller, told El Tribuno in Salta, northwestern Argentina. “We have to work. I walk 20 blocks [to] come downtown.”

“I hardly get any passengers,” a taxi driver in Buenos Aires told a TN reporter. “If I don’t work one day, I don’t eat.”

Despite dissent over his move, opinion polls suggest that Mr. Milei remains popular among Argentines. Recent polls show his approval rating hovering around 45-50%, just short of the 56% share of the vote he won in the election.

In a recent interview with the BBC, he denied that ordinary people were paying the price for his cuts, arguing that “the most regressive tax that hits people the hardest is inflation”.

Mr Milei expressed pride that he had reduced government spending below tax revenue for the first time since 2008, but said that “there is no magic, real life takes time”.

“What is the alternative? To continue printing money like the previous administration which generated inflation and ultimately affected the most vulnerable?”

His leftist predecessor, Cristina Fern├índez de Kirchner, described the cuts as a “useless sacrifice of the people” in the wake of the attack.

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