Argentina lawmakers approve Milei's reforms bill in first Congress test

Lawmakers debate the government's 'omnibus bill' of economic reforms at the Congress in Buenos Aires. (Photo/AFP)

Argentine lawmakers have taken a first step towards approving President Javier Milei's sweeping economic, social and political reform package, which has sparked angry opposition protests.

The bill won the "general" approval on Friday in principle of the lower house of Congress, whose members will examine the plans of libertarian and self-described anarcho-capitalist Milei in detail next week.

The Chamber of Deputies approved the package in principle by 144 votes to 109 on the third day of a marathon debate accompanied by protests and clashes outside.

Shortly before the vote, the 53-year-old political outsider said on social media that lawmakers had "the opportunity to show which side of history" they wanted to be on.

"History will judge them according to their work in favour of the Argentines or for the continued impoverishment of the people," a presidential statement said.

His reform package touches on many areas of public and private life, from privatisations to cultural issues, the penal code, divorce and the status of football clubs.

The bill may undergo changes before heading to the Senate.

Last week, Milei's government yanked some divisive spending reforms contained within the fiscal section from the bill in what turned out to be a successful maneuver to boost support for it.

"We have two clear options — become the largest slum in the world, or continue this path towards prosperity and freedom," said Lorena Villaverde, a lawmaker from Milei's far-right party, Freedom Advances.

But opposition deputy Leandro Santoro pointed to the economic and social crisis of 2001 as an example of the risks of free-market reforms.

"We Argentines already know what happens when the economic model focuses on adjustment and deregulation," he said.

Public opposition

On Friday, police again fired tear gas at crowds of demonstrators outside Congress.

It comes just over a week after tens of thousands of Argentines took to the streets in a major challenge to Milei's budget-slashing policies.

On Thursday, police fired rubber bullets and water cannons at protesters outside the Congress while lawmakers were debating the bill.

In a vote of confidence behind Milei's reforms, however, the IMF on Wednesday approved the disbursement of around $4.7 billion to Argentina.

Milei won a resounding election victory in October last year, riding a wave of anger over decades of the economic crisis in the South American nation, where annual inflation stands at over 200 percent and poverty levels are at 40 percent.

Milei began his term by devaluing the peso by more than 50 percent, cutting state subsidies for fuel and transport, reducing the number of ministries by half, and scrapping hundreds of rules so as to deregulate the economy.


Source: TRT