Milei’s “Bus Law” in Argentina

Image: Lucía Montenegro


The approval of the “bus law” took place after the longest discussion in the history of the Chamber, concessions on the part of the government and intense repression in the streets

Around 17 pm yesterday [2 Feb.], the approval in the Chamber of Deputies was confirmed, with a wide margin of votes, 144 in favor and 109 against, of the so-called “bus law”, a project promoted by the government of Javier Milei, and which represents, to a large extent, the profound neoliberal reforms that millennialism intends to implement. At 18 p.m., left-wing protesters and self-convened civil society were gathered in Praça dos Dois Congressos, blocking part of the traffic on Avenida Rivadavia, one of the most important roads in Buenos Aires, until a disproportionate police operation, of enormous proportion, enforced the anti-protest protocol of the Ministry of Security of Patricia Bullrich, also a former minister in the government of former president Mauricio Macri (2015-2019), who, with the use of motorcycles and pepper spray, began to disperse those protesting against the approval of the law. The protesters asked, among other things, that the country's main trade union force, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), call for a new general strike. The first took place on January 24th, just 45 days into the government.

In unison and without any rupture, the government party La Libertad Avanza (LLA) and Proposta Republicana (PRO), founded by former president Macri, voted positively for the project. The government made important concessions to get the law approved. He agreed to reduce the number of companies to be privatized and reduce the extraordinary powers granted to the president. Therefore, the government's political victory can be considered partial, at least so far. Next Tuesday, the 6th, from 14 pm, the Chamber will discuss the text again, this time, article by article. Therefore, it cannot be considered that the entire project received half a sanction.

The approval of the “bus law” took place after the longest discussion in the history of the Chamber, at least since anyone can remember, as the local media comments. After three days of parliamentary discussion, almost 60 hours of session, and three days of repression against protesters and journalists, more than twenty professionals were injured, the law which was originally titled “Bases and Starting Points for the Freedom of Argentines”, arrived to the parliamentary precinct for discussion and voting with 525 articles, 139 articles less than the original version.

According to initial analyzes by journalist Marcelo Falak, from the Argentine digital newspaper Letter p, it can be considered that the approval of the law in the Chamber is a political victory for Javier Milei, as the government presents this project as something “foundational for what will be the rest of his mandate”. However, Falak considers that the original text was extremely conditioned, according to the interests of certain governors. The so-called “bus law” has as its original title the imperious name of “Bases and Starting Points for the Freedom of Argentines”.

Therefore, according to the journalist, it is still too early to determine government victories and this triumph is still “opinionable”, as the victory was “very costly” and came after “enormous efforts” by the government. “Perhaps (a victory) less significant than the one sought in the first place”, he considered and highlighted the fact of considering what will come after the session scheduled for next Tuesday.

“It will be essential to know what happens following the particular vote (on each article). So, let's find out if the main alignments of this project are in line with what the government initially thought. For example, about the powers to delegate by decree, on what subjects, and with what deadlines. What is the list of companies to be privatized, and whether or not this privatization will have to go through legislative bodies. There are many points to complete an assessment”, said Falak.

Last week, the Minister of Economy, Luis Caputo, announced the removal of the fiscal chapter of the “bus law” project, with the aim of obtaining the necessary votes for approval, which finally happened. The Chamber of Deputies is presided over by Martín Menem, nephew of former president Carlos Menem (1989-1999), who died in 2021, responsible for implementing the neoliberal reforms of the 90s in Argentina. Menem did not vote on the “bus law”, and three absences were also recorded, two of which were from the province of Jujuy, Northern Argentina, from the Peronist coalition “União pela Pátria”.

Regarding the repression during the three days of discussion of the project, the Minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich, stated that there were “no serious incidents” and that her management will continue working to “maintain public order”. An advisor from the “Frente de Izquierda” party bench was injured with a rubber bullet in the eye, during police repression, on the second day of discussion of the project, and underwent surgery at the risk of losing his eye. The Buenos Aires Press Union reported that around 20 journalists and photojournalists were injured last Thursday while covering demonstrations near Congress.

*Maíra Vasconcelos is a writer and journalist. Author, among other books, of The book of others – poems dedicated to reading (Earthly Crafts).

Originally published on GGN.

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