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Argentina’s Milei takes his chainsaw to the state, cutting 15,000 jobs and spurring protests

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – Argentina announced Wednesday it has cut national employment by 15,000 jobs as part of President Javier Millei’s aggressive spending-cuts campaign. This is the latest in a series of painful economic measures that have put the Liberal government on a collision course with the government. Angry protesters and powerful trade unions.

Presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni announced the job cuts at a press conference, saying they were key to reforming Argentina’s bloated public sector promised by Milay.

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“This is part of the efforts we are making to reduce state spending,” he told reporters, saying laid-off workers were a drag on taxpayers.

Argentina - Layoff

State employees are temporarily prevented from entering their workplaces by anti-government demonstrations in support of workers laid off as part of the state’s economic downsizing policy, Wednesday, April 3, 2024, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. According to the state workers’ association, more than 11,000 state employees have been laid off so far by Javier Millay’s government. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garrero)

“They probably didn’t have a clear job,” he says.

On Wednesday, hundreds of rebellious employees, some of whom were given notice of termination last week and others earlier, stormed workplaces in Buenos Aires and neighboring cities, beating drums and He denounced his dismissal as unfair and demanded reinstatement.

Despite the rain, a crowd wearing the green T-shirts of the State Employees Association (ATE), the country’s largest labor union, gathered outside the ministry. In some cases, scuffles broke out as police struggled to remove protesters from government buildings.

Employees in ministries that Mr. Mirelli has vowed to close, such as the National Institute for Anti-Discrimination, and various state institutions, including the ministries of economy, energy and social security, have received the latest notices of redundancy.

“They have faces, they have families, they have real needs in the context of great change and great poverty in Argentina,” said Mercedes Cabezas, general secretary of ATE, outside the Ministry of Labor as a protester. told the Associated Press. He pumped his fist and chanted around her.

“Coupled with cuts to social programs, the impact will be very severe and ultimately lead to an increase in poverty,” she says.

Millay brandished a chainsaw while campaigning for president, promising to rebuild Argentina’s long-troubled economy by downsizing the country. Determined to balance the country’s budget, he cut energy and transportation subsidies, shut down public utilities, and cut payments to state governments to close the gap between the official exchange rate and the black market rate. and devalued the peso by more than 50%.

But that has led to rising inflation, making it even harder for struggling Argentines to make ends meet.

Even before last week, 41-year-old Hernán Silva was still working at the National Transportation Safety Board for a base salary of $250 a month when he was stressed about not having enough money “for anything,” including fuel. I was feeling it. Meat and medical supplies have increased rapidly.

“We were barely able to make it until the end of the month,” he said. After 14 years at the Traffic Safety Administration, his boss called him last Wednesday and told him and 20 colleagues that today was his last day.

Silva and his colleagues tried to force their way into the office on Wednesday, their first day after a vacation in Argentina, but gave up after managers threatened to call the police.

“My only plan right now is to fight for my job, because this is not fair,” he said. Neither he nor his colleagues received formal notice of termination.

Despite limited clashes with police, Wednesday’s protests were largely peaceful. Police were present downtown, a reminder of the government’s broader commitment to curb demonstrations that have become destructive.

Spokesman Adorni warned that those who stormed public buildings “will suffer the consequences.”

Argentina’s trade unions, one of the sectors hardest hit by Millais’ reforms, appeared undeterred. Union leaders have promised a large-scale general strike. The fired workers vowed to continue coming to the office.

“We will continue to mobilize,” Cabezas said. “Our battle has only just begun.”

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Analysts have warned that the standoff could derail Mr Millais’ persistent efforts to achieve zero budget deficit by the end of the year.

“They are walking a very thin line,” said Martin Planes of the Buenos Aires-based political advisory group Cefeidas. He said: “We need to go further in reducing spending, but we also need to prevent social unrest.”

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