Something had to give! It simply could not go on at the relentless pace that it had until society reacted. Minister for the Interior, Patricia Bullrich, threatened human resources with unconstitutional anti-protest laws, loss of benefits if denounced as being at a march (and walking on the street) and even emitted threats to be forced to pay for police activities at protests if you attend yourself (ultraliberalism at its dumbest). But how did we get to here?
Milei (a dog lover) seems to running faster and faster
like a crazy terrier after bigger and bigger balls:
— throw the ball, get the ball … (repeat)
— throw the ball, bark, get the ball (repeat for 25 years) …
After just 10 days he’s fetching fever pitch albeit with a brief distraction from a tornado in Buenos Aires. Milei is a determined, messianic little man and isn’t above playing fast and loose with democratic procedure to get his way. On the 20th of December Milei’s fury kicked into overdrive.
While still on the election trail Javi had been asked by a journalist how he could effect change, since as a President alone, with his tiny party, the LLA, which has only one state senator and very few deputies in the House of Representatives? How could he Javier Milei pass laws? His answer sounded somewhat dictatorial. I will rule by presidential decree!
Nobody took him seriously, they were wrong!
Milei’s first ten days began with deep painful economic shock (what the IMF likes to call structural adjustment) but in overdrive. This began with a once-off 105% plus devaluation of the peso that drove the economy, already with 140% inflation, into hyper-inflation. For shits and giggles he removed all price controls too thus emptying and not restocking supermarket shelves as distributors and producers hiked prices (even if their costs were in pesos and they were dollarised at the illegal rate already). Milei, terrier boy, is on a mission to destroy Socialism. He WILL free the hands of the owners of capital. Peluca is a man with a mission!
The regal phase of MIlei’s presidency began with Javi announcing his first presidential “mega-decree”. Yes, that’s really what it’s called. More than 300 legislative changes all packed into one decree. In fact, word had it, that his minister Caputo delayed closing the decree’s list of laws a few days more as companies kept adding in little favours till the very last minute.
Presidential decrees like this are usually rare. They’re called DNUs, a (Decree of Necessity and Urgency). It’s a mechanism for Presidents designed for times of war time but Javi is always at war; he’s an angry little terrier. On December 20th he announced the mother of all DNU’s to delete or change more than a 300 laws all with one stroke of his ultraliberal anti-caste pen. Javi recorded this speech earlier that same day but the broadcast schedule was pushed out at the last minute. Maybe Milei was more comfortable that way, as no-one would know where to find him at midnight. In the recording Milei read the top-30 from the list in a dull and deep-pan manner from scraps of paper title by title then gave up. Behind him were his twelve new silent apostles giving him a Last Supper Jesus-like presence at the centre of the wide table. Maybe somebody should have mentioned to him that the last supper was Easter not Christmas? Or, is that just me being bitchy?
Milei’s hated “casta” was very much present, they were right by his side. Many seemed bored by his presentation but they must have been delighted that Milei was willing to use such a drastic and pseudo-democratic mechanism to gorge their clients with favours and try to change the law books of Argentina massively to bring freedom to the owners of capital. What a Christmas present for the elite owners of Argentine capital and their markets applied under cover of his stunning[sic.] electoral victory.
However Argentina was designed as a democracy and such DNUs were written for emergencies adding constitutional clauses so that they would not be abused. There are rules. In Argentina not all rules are necessarily followed, but this rule is in the constitution.
How to override the Congress, the Senate and the constitution?
This is where Villarruel, Milei’s vice-president, stepped up to the mark to machete her way through both houses in a blatant attempt to bring regal powers to her boss and his backers. Victoria Villarruel, a lawyer from a military family, is also a ruthless political strategist. She took advantage of the Christmas break in both houses to create pseudo-legal commissions within ten days of her election (the minimum number of days required to declare a DNU). With so few deputies LLA has also just one Senator, the new commissions were designed to advance Milei’s DNU. To do this the commissions needed to be somewhat artfully constructed if you’ll pardon my French. With so much legislation, some dating back more than 100 years, in one DNU Villarruel needed to work fast before people start to ask who in the Argentine Chamber of Commerce and similar organizations had rewritten the laws.
Remember Javi, to his grande electorate, was the lion elected to kill the casta not the terrier that retrieve their balls.
This procedure of using presidential decrees to override the powers of the Senate and the House of Representatives is however illegal under the constitution according to Article 99, section three which sensibly restricts DNU’s by mandating a submission for ten days to the Permanent Bicameral Commission “the composition of which shall respect the proportion of the political representation in each House”.
This will be a huge test of the Machiavellian trio (Macri, Millei and Villarruel) and their mates on the Supreme Court. Will the law turn a blind eye (or a crooked one) to how the new casta are trying to stuff these laws, above the Senate, the Congress and the constitution while the people take a Christmas break using the commission Villarruel just created, a commission that doesn’t reflect the composition of the current Congress or Senate or will the courts block?
Stability or Christmas Present?
But what of the package of laws itself? Could they bring economic stability? That’s what Javi said he would do, eventually. An expert was asked in an interview in Argentina’s conservative “La Nacion” newspaper whether these particular legal changes could bring economic stabilization. He was also asked whether he had seen so many laws overwritten so quickly by any government? Pablo Gerchunoff answered that he hadn’t ever seen such a long list, except under dictatorships, and that “No!”, this was just a shopping list of laws of varios or no importance for stability. So if theis package would not, nor was it designed to, bring stability then what is it?
Who is throwing the ball for Milei the terrier in his first few days as president? Who could it be that might have chosen most of the items on Milei’s mega DNU shopping list? Whose lawyers will suggest replacement legislation in their place? It is more than obvious that this vast legal feat is something that LLA, in just two years of existence, could never be capable of on it’s own. The LLA ten-day presidency barely gave them time to print these out on a laser printer. By answering this question it will reveal the secret to Milei’s powerful backers, the new casta, and could help map their agenda before the privatization phase of the government, if it makes it that far.
Earlier on the 20th. the day the left party march in the afternoon, had been timed so they arrive in Plaza de Mayo to coincide with Milei’s speech. They knew what was coming was not what they wanted and the poor were already shocked at the economic collapse and job losses from the devaluation the week before. But Javi just recorded his speech and deferred the broadcast till nine PM thus foiling their impact.
Milei hates the organised left but Milei has possibly underestimated the majority at the the caserolazo too. The people banging cans at the congress were not political analysts but the vast majority are workers. The size of the demonstrations across the country were, one hopes, a surprise to the LLA.
That evening as Milei’s broadcast speech ended, him quoting a long list of some of the laws he was removing in his mega-decree, the people got tired of him reading them his long list of dictator-era-like changes in laws. Milei was proud to read out legal changes, numbers 8 and 10 plans to return Argentina from the days of the two disgraced monster-figures of the Argentine economy Menem and Cavallo.
- Number 8: Deleting of norms that prevent the privatization of publicly owned companies
- And number 10: Conversion of publicly owned companies into Limited Companies for their preparation for privatization…
It was 9:40PM (dinner time in Buenos Aires), they had had enough. The city began to ring with the rough clank of metal on metal.
Cellphone messages pinged everywhere but this was not an online poll. Milei had spoiled their dinner and now he was going to sell their nation. Hundreds of Thousands of argentinians went outside on a balcony or to the corner of their streets or local park and started to bang anything they had on hand in a chaotic drum beat. They started to sing, to talk, to organize. Some gave speeches, others invented new chants but mostly they just made noise and cars beeped back …
- Milei Milei you are the dictatorship…
- Milei sells our country out, A nation is not something you sell (ES: Vende Patria)
- There were a number of other slightly ruder chants
which referred to the private parts of Milei’s mum
but I shan’t elaborate
After about an hour or so of thumping everything that makes noise from cans to metal lampposts close to their homes, people began to march toward the National Congress building. It’s closed at midnight a few days before Christmas — the time most people started to arrive — but the people demanded democracy not mega-decrees.
The police were active all across the city. They put out fires on streets and vacated barricades, but did not conduct mass arrests. Private cars and motorbikes followed the marchers “Beep — beep — beep-beep-beep” World Cup style, adding volume and bringing more people who double parked everywhere. Other Milei-fans desperately tried to dart home avoiding traffic jams causing a few panicked minor accidents. But mostly people just moved en masse toward Congress Place, slowly and very noisily. They needed to see each other, they smiled, they danced and they climbed the new fence outside. The police let them do what they want.
 Never heard of tornadoes in Buenos Aires, neither have the locals till this week. Milei who was born in the city, should be aware of this, but he never once mentioned climate change as winds spun full sized jet airplanes around on the tarmac and thirteen people died in a building collapse in the province in the same storm.