Argentina’s president has suggested those opposed to his “shock therapy” are fond of “communism”
Demonstrators outside the Congress in Buenos Aires protesting deep cuts to the government are nostalgic for a system that brought them to poverty, Argentinian President Javier Milei said on Thursday.
Thousands had turned out late on Wednesday to protest Milei’s emergency decrees. The newly sworn-in president has moved to abolish 11 government ministries and enact sweeping deregulation with the intent to kick-start the economy plagued by hyperinflation and debt.
In an interview with Radio Rivadavia on Thursday, Milei described the emergency measures as being “for the people” and “in favor of the market, not of the corporations.”
“It may be that there are people who suffer from Stockholm syndrome,” Milei said when asked about the protesters who banged on pots and pans outside the Palace of Congress. “They embrace and love the model that has impoverished them. There are people who look at communism with nostalgia, love, and affection.”
The phrase ‘Stockholm syndrome’ was coined after a 1973 incident in the Swedish capital when hostages developed sympathy for their captors.
Milei is a libertarian populist who campaigned on a platform of radical reforms. He won the presidential runoff in November by an 11-point margin over former Economy Minister Sergio Massa.
Since taking office in early December, he has moved to abolish almost a dozen government ministries, including Transportation, Women, Labor, Environment, Social Development, Education, and Tourism.
Announcing the emergency decrees on Wednesday, Milei described them as a stabilization package intended to address inflation and improve the macroeconomic situation while acknowledging that many parts of it were “not pleasant.”
The opposition has called Milei’s measures unconstitutional, accusing him of violating the separation of powers. Buenos Aires Governor Axel Kicillof, one of the leaders of the Kirchnerist faction, accused Milei of wanting to “privatize everything, deregulate everything, destroy workers’ rights, destroy entire production sectors, raffle off football clubs and Argentines’ heritage,” all without going through Congress.
Milei has promised even more reforms, pointing to an estimated 380,000 regulations he said were hindering the economy of Argentina. The South American country is dealing with an annual inflation of 143%, a trade deficit of $43 billion, and $45 billion in debt to the International Monetary Fund alone.
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