Riots break out in Buenos Aires over President Javier Milei’s reforms

Thousands of people rallied outside Congress in Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires to protest against a bill proposed by President Javier Milei.

Senators voted 37 to 36 late on Wednesday to give their overall approval to Mr Milei’s controversial economic reform plan.

If the Senate approves the articles with modifications, the lower house still has to back them before Mr Milei can claim his first legislative win since entering office last December.

Pic: AP
Police in riot gear had to use tear gas, water hoses and rubber bullets. Pic: AP

Thousands gathered outside Congress to protest against the bill as it delegates broad powers to the president – a right-wing economist – in energy, pensions, security and other areas.

At least 20 police officers were injured and more than a dozen protesters were arrested over the violence, authorities said.

Demonstrators poured gasoline on two cars and set them alight, turning the central square into a smoke-filled battlefield.

They also hurled sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails at police who sprayed water cannons, pepper spray and tear gas to disperse the huge crowds.

Pic: AP
Protests in Buenos Aires turned violent. Pic: AP

The bill would aim to overhaul an embattled economy, with inflation near 300%, and includes plans for privatising public firms and spurring investment.

But some protesters fear it would leave them further exposed to rising unemployment and consumer prices.

“Argentine people’s lives are at play. We’ve drunk this poison several times: to have zero inflation with zero economic activity,” protester and social leader Luis D’Elia said.

“This poison has failed several times in Argentina and we won’t allow this to carry on.”

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The spending cuts and currency devaluation Mr Milei has delivered have – at least in the short term – deepened a recession and increased poverty to 55%.

“If this law passes, we are going to lose so many of our labour and pension rights,” said 54-year-old teacher Miriam Rajovitcher, protesting ahead of the vote alongside colleagues who say they have had to reconfigure their lives since Mr Milei slashed school budgets and devalued the currency.

“I am so much worse off.”

Mr Milei’s office celebrated the bill’s passage.

Pic: AP
An anti-government protester suffering from tear gas sprayed by police. Pic: AP

Pic: Reuters
Protesters fear the bill would further expose them to rising unemployment and consumer prices. Pic: Reuters

“What happened tonight is a triumph for the Argentine people and the first step to recovering our greatness,” the presidential office said in a statement.

Mr Milei, a brash economist and former pundit who has clashed with lawmakers and regularly called Congress a “nest of rats,” has tied a lot to the bill.

Pic: AP
A Volkswagen car burns in front of Congress in Argentina’s capital. Pic: AP

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His government says it is key to undoing a major economic crisis it inherited.

“We are going to change Argentina. We’ll make a liberal Argentina,” Mr Milei said on Wednesday, adding if his reforms did not get through Congress now he would try again in 2025.

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