A massive general strike has brought Argentina to a standstill as unions and activists protest President Javier Milei’s controversial economic reforms. Over 1 million workers are estimated to have participated in the strike, which labor leaders have described as one of the biggest protests in decades.
Unions Lead Walkout Over Spending Cuts
The strike was organized by Argentina’s largest labor groups in response to Milei’s austerity budget passed by emergency decree earlier this month. Key measures include:
- Deep cuts to healthcare, education, pensions and other social spending
- Privatization of state-owned assets
- Deregulation of labor laws and reduction of union negotiating power
- 20% decrease in public sector wages
Union leaders have slammed the cuts as an “attack on workers” and argue they will devastate the middle and working classes. Over 90% of state employees are believed to have joined the strike.
Transport Networks Crippled
The walkout has severely disrupted transport networks and public services across Argentina:
- Virtually all flights were cancelled with aviation workers joining the strike
- Public transport was halted in Buenos Aires as subway and bus employees downed tools
- Few taxis were operating as drivers refused fares in solidarity
- Schools, hospitals and many businesses closed due to lack of staff
Huge crowds gathered for rallies in Buenos Aires, Cordoba and other major cities as Argentines vented their frustrations. Police estimates put the Buenos Aires march at over 100,000 people.
Milei Defiant Amid Growing Backlash
President Milei has remained defiant in the face of intensifying opposition, stating “the privileges of the corrupt elite will end”. He has accused union bosses of holding the country to ransom and asserted his reforms are essential to revive Argentina’s struggling economy.
However, Milei has seen his approval rating tumble to just 25% as austerity bites and inflation continues to run above 100%. The general strike poses the biggest challenge yet to his leadership just two months after taking office.
|Estimated Strike Participation
What’s Next in the Standoff?
The strike marks a new phase in the battle between Milei and organized labor. While unions don’t have the power to directly block his economic agenda, large protests and work stoppages will continue to hurt the economy. This risks further fueling inflation and aggravates Argentina’s deep recession.
Most analysts expect relations between the government and unions to remain extremely fraught. The opposition and unions are demanding negotiations and policy changes, but Milei has refused to soften his stance so far. Further strikes and demonstrations are already being planned which will continue to present a major headache for the Argentine leader.
Ultimately, Milei’s ability to weather the protests and push through reforms will hinge on whether he can retain the backing of international creditors and Argentina’s middle classes. He was elected on promises to revive growth, but a deeper economic contraction may quickly erode political support for his shock therapy.
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