Argentina fires 15,000 civil servants: Huge protests and raids on institutions

Argentina announced today that it has cut 15,000 government jobs as part of new President Javier Miley's aggressive campaign to cut public spending, with sacked officials storming back into their jobs

by Sededin Dedovic
Argentina fires 15,000 civil servants: Huge protests and raids on institutions
© Marcelo Endelli / Getty Images

Today, Argentina found itself in the center of global media attention after announcing a plan to cut 15,000 jobs in state institutions. This decision is part of the aggressive campaign of new President Javier Miley to reduce public spending.

The dismissed officers gathered en masse at their former workplaces, some of them with drums, demanding the decision be reversed. This measure caused a wave of controversy, conflict and protest across Argentina. The libertarian government found itself in direct conflict with powerful unions and workers' anger.

Presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni announced the layoffs at a press conference, describing them as a key step in the reorganization of the public sector. "This is part of our efforts to reduce the costs of the state," Adorni told reporters.

He added that the dismissed officers "perhaps did not have clearly defined work tasks". Hundreds of those laid off, some of whom were notified of their layoffs last Wednesday, while others received their resignations several weeks ago, gathered today at their former workplaces in Buenos Aires and other cities.

Some beat the drums, claiming the layoffs were unfair and demanding a return to work. Despite the rain, a crowd of people wearing green T-shirts from the Association of State Employees (ATE), the largest union in the country, flooded the streets in front of the ministry buildings.

There was also a conflict when the police tried to force them out. "These layoffs have a face, people have families, they have real needs in this period of great change and poverty in Argentina," Mercedes Cabezas, general secretary of the ATE, told The Associated Press outside the Ministry of Labor.

According to her, the impact of this decision is enormous, especially since it is combined with the reduction of social programs, which results in an increase in poverty. Milei, a self-styled anarcho-capitalist, former television analyst and anti-establishment fighter, was elected in November amid his country's worst economic crisis in two decades.

He warned that the country is facing a 'difficult year', since Miley's plans 'require the population to be ready to go through painful reforms' During the campaign, Milei emphasized cutting the state apparatus, promising to stabilize Argentina's economy in the long term.

President of Argentina Javier Milei speaks to supporters outside the National Congress after his Inauguration Ceremony on Decemb© Marcelo Endelli / Getty Images

Determined to balance the budget, he slashed energy and transportation subsidies, halted public works, cut spending on local governments and devalued the peso by more than 50 percent to narrow the gap between the official exchange rate and the black market exchange rate.

Since taking office in December, the libertarian economist has moved quickly to reduce Argentina's fiscal deficit and deregulate the economy. However, this only fueled inflation, which is now making life even more difficult for Argentines than before Miley came to power.

Despite occasional clashes with the police, today's protests were largely peaceful. Police were deployed throughout the city center, guided by the government's promise to crack down on demonstrations that disrupt regular life.

"Those who break into state buildings will bear the consequences," President Adorni's spokesman warned. However, the trade unionists acted undaunted, and some union officials announced a massive general strike. The fired workers promised to continue coming to their workplaces, and their representatives announced that "the fight has just begun." The reduction of jobs in the public sector caused a fierce reaction both among the workers themselves and among opposition politicians and non-governmental organizations.

Critics of the policies of the Milei administration point out that this measure will further deepen economic inequalities and worsen the living conditions of already vulnerable groups. Some economists close to the regime support the government's moves, arguing they are necessary to stabilize Argentina's economy and attract foreign investment.

However, a strong bloc of people has formed in Argentina who warn that the measures will increase unemployment and poverty in the short term, and the protests have warned that it could cause social unrest and political instability.

However, the situation in the country is already boiling, and the reduction of the number of state bureaucracy will definitely have an impact on the political turmoil in Argentina, where no one has an absolute majority. Miley's party lacks a majority in both houses of Congress, which could block some of his fiscal measures, and powerful unions oppose his plans.

Analysts say the International Monetary Fund is likely to hold off on significant new funding for Argentina until Miley shows his reforms are sustainable. Despite the controversy and resistance, President Milei maintains that his economic policies will bring long-term benefits to the Argentine people.

However, as the country faces the challenges of economic crisis and social tension, it remains to be seen how the situation will develop further and whether Milei's administration will manage to overcome these challenges.