(Buenos Aires) Opposition deputies temporarily left Parliament in Argentina on Thursday, in the middle of a debate on the deregulatory reforms of ultraliberal President Javier Milei, to protest against the “repression” according to them, by the police of a demonstration at the exterior of the building.
Early Thursday evening, the police fired rubber bullets to disperse several hundred demonstrators and clear traffic routes around Parliament, AFP noted. Security forces also used water cannons and tear gas.
Argentine media reported three injuries and two arrests, without initial official confirmation.
The day after a first laborious twelve-hour session, Argentine parliamentarians examined for the second consecutive day Mr. Milei’s vast and controversial reform package, which affects many aspects of the economy, public and private spheres.
The debate has taken place from the start against a backdrop of tension maintained outside by mobilized demonstrators, facing an imposing police force, at the call of radical left movements, a civil service union and a party young people.
Deputies from opposition parties, especially from the left, went outside in the early evening to observe the facts. “We cannot sit like this,” said left-wing MP Mariano Del Caño.
Returning to the hemicycle, they did not obtain an adjournment of the debate, which continued late into the evening. Peronist deputy Maximo Kirchner, son of ex-president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, justified their exit to “take 40 minutes and avoid deaths and tragedies”.
Their colleague Alejandro Finocchiaro, an ally of the government, accused them of engaging in maneuvers in concert with the demonstrators “with the aim of putting an end to this parliamentary session”.
“Outside, there are no workers, if they were workers they would not have stayed 48 hours without doing anything,” said Mr. Finocchiaro.
Late Thursday, around 10:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m. Eastern Friday), clusters of demonstrators, a few hundred of them, maintained a tense standoff with police lines just trying to keep them back. on the sidewalks, freeing up traffic, noted AFP.
In the afternoon, the first brief scuffles took place with the police, according to AFP journalists on site. A demonstrator was injured in the face before being evacuated.
The day before, a demonstration of several thousand people, calm for most of the day, had gotten out of hand in the evening. The police had already used tear gas, dispersing a few dozen demonstrators.
Six people were arrested, all released on Thursday, in what the moderate opposition party UCR (center right) described as “a dangerous repressive advance fueled by the executive”.
A ruling party MP reported that a police officer was lightly injured on Wednesday.
Excessive with 664 articles in its initial version, President Milei’s reform package, called the “omnibus law”, was unraveled gradually through parliamentary negotiations, in committees, and according to legislative sources cited by the press, would not include more than 224 provisions.
Several left-wing parliamentarians were outraged Thursday at the fact that the written version of the text, apparently in constant evolution, was slow to circulate in the hemicycle.
Two aspects in particular generate resistance: the extent of privatizations, with 40 companies targeted, and the delegation of increased powers to the executive, for a limited period, in the name of “economic emergency”, in matters of tariffs, energy, tax in particular.
The opposition fears that this would allow reforms to be imposed by decree that Parliament would have rejected.
A Peronist opposition deputy (left), Anibal Cisneros, also expressed “the fear of giving absolute powers” to Milei, of whom “we do not know if he will not wake up angry tomorrow and declare war on Chile , Peru or China.
Damian Arabia, a member of the liberal right-wing opposition ally of Milei’s minority party (3e force in parliament), urged the House to vote for reforms “because what is at stake is governability”.
After a debate destined to stretch late into the night, the deputies were to proceed, on Friday at best, to a first so-called “general” vote on the principle of the law, before a second crucial stage of debate on the details of the articles, where several groups are aiming for additional changes.