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Argentina: Protests continue as lawmakers debate reforms

February 2, 2024

Police fired rubber bullets and water cannons at protesters outside Argentina's Congress as lawmakers debated President Javier Milei's massive reform bill.

Demonstrators clash with law enforcement officers during a protest as lawmakers debate Argentina President Javier Milei's economic bill outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires
Economic reforms proposed by Argentina's President Javier Milei has sparked a massive backlashImage: Matias Baglietto/REUTERS

Argentine police fired rubber bullets Thursday to disperse protesters gathered outside Congress as lawmakers debated the new president's sweeping package of economic, social and political reforms.

The drama unfolded on the second day of what is expected to be a marathon debate on the reform plans of libertarian and self-described anarcho-capitalist President Javier Milei.

Television footage showed police firing rubber bullets and water cannons at hundreds of demonstrators opposed to the reform package.

Protests outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina
It was the second day of protests outside the National Congress in Buenos AiresImage: Agustin Marcarian/REUTERS

Lawmakers denounce police action

Opposition lawmakers stormed out of the building at one point to watch and denounce the police action, but later returned to their seats and the debate resumed.

"We cannot hold a session under these circumstances," said leftist lawmaker Mariano Del Cano as he and others left the building.

Alejandro Finocchiaro, a lawmaker who supports Milei, accused those who walked out of trying to delay debate and said the protesters outside "were determined to be repressed so that this session will come to a halt."

Mass strike tests Argentina's radical new president

Difficult task for Milei

With his party holding only 38 of the 257 seats in the lower house and widespread protests against his reform plans, Milei faces an uphill battle.

Moderate opposition lawmakers have warned they will seek further changes to the bill, particularly on the sensitive issue of granting special powers to the executive in an economic emergency.

Milei took office in December vowing to slash spending and end a decades-long economic crisis in South America's third-largest economy, where annual inflation is running at more than 200%.

dh/jsi (AFP, EFE)