Argentine President Javier Milei was dealt a major setback in parliament Tuesday when his deeply controversial deregulatory reform package was prevented from advancing and sent back for a rewrite, legislators said.
Just as the Chamber of Deputies was preparing for a vote on the bill, the president’s La Libertad Avanza (LLA) party suddenly requested and obtained the adjournment of the session.
“The governors (of the provinces) did not keep their word,” said Oscar Zago, leader of the ruling party faction.
The matter is being sent “back to committee” for further dialogue, Zago said, while denying that the move was a failure for the president.
The new hurdle for the package, which last week won approval in principle pending further examination, was put up as Milei was on a trip to Israel, from where he offered a fiery response.
“Our government program was voted by 56 percent of Argentines and we are not willing to negotiate it with those who destroyed the country,” Milei posted on social media platform X.
“We know that it will not be easy to change a system in which politicians have enriched themselves at the expense of Argentines,” he added.
Milei’s spokesman Manuel Adorni said that work on the package would continue and insisted that cuts to government spending will still have to be made.
“All government expenses will have to be reviewed to comply with President Milei’s order, which is zero deficit,” Adorni told the LN+ channel.
Members of the opposition celebrated what they saw as a victory.
“A political defeat for the government,” said Peronist lawmaker Leandro Santoro, referring to the drama in parliament as “unprecedented ridicule” for the government.
With the bill being sent back to committee, opposition lawmaker Myriam Bregman told reporters “this means they have to start from scratch.”
Citing protests in front of Congress last week as the bill was being debated, Bregman added: “Popular rejection was felt throughout the country.”
On Tuesday, lawmakers resumed their thorny, article-by-article examination of Milei’s ambitious “Omnibus” law, which touches on many areas of public and private life.
Initially containing 660 provisions covering the economy, trade, culture, criminal law, even football clubs, the bill has since been whittled down to around 300 articles.
Milei had notched an initial victory Tuesday with deputies approving the principle of “delegated powers” to the executive for one year, and to legislate by decree in the name of “economic urgency.”
The Argentine leader won a resounding election victory in October, riding a wave of anger over decades of economic crisis in the South American nation, where annual inflation stands at over 200 percent and poverty levels are at 40 percent.
Milei began his term by devaluing the peso by more than 50 percent, cutting state subsidies for fuel and transport, reducing the number of ministries by half, and scrapping hundreds of rules so as to deregulate the economy.
Hurriyet Daily News