Javier Milei – the taste for busts



Moving busts on a chessboard and bringing Carlos Menem to the doors of the hall is just the symbolic reflection of having brought a new historical tragedy to the doors of social life

The headquarters of the Argentine government, the emblematic “Casa Rosada”, houses the “Hall of Busts”, a space designed to honor all the first leaders, although not without some omissions, in addition to the obvious exclusion of the coup plotters. Javier Milei, in his revisionist zeal, once again celebrated this week what he considers the best president of the last 40 years, inaugurating his smiling bust and relocating the rest to break the chronological sequence of successive administrations and accentuate his ideological inclinations through the spatial resettlement.

Thus, Carlos Menem now occupies a prominent place in the entrance alongside Bartolomé Mitre, while figures like Néstor Kirchner or Raúl Alfonsín have been relegated to the corners. He had already provocatively struck a blow to proportional veneration on March 8 by renaming the “Salão das Mulheres” (which contained portraits of 17 figures from national history) as “Salão dos Heroes”, among whose figures he also placed Carlos Menem. There is no lack of coherence in his reading. It was Carlos Menen who inaugurated the first stage of post-dictatorial Cipayo ultraliberalism in Rio da Prata,[I] to which Lacalle Herrera immediately joined, under the protection of the Washington consensus.

If we also included the most rigorously ethical-political measures that exceed and contradict politically liberal ideology to delve into the frightening scenario of criminal impunity, we would have to delve even deeper into the Montevideo Naval Club Pact. In fact, the amnesties and the subsequent law expiring the first Sanguinetti government on the eastern coast, which unfortunately popular civic cowardice prevented from being reversed, may have inspired, in a dark echo of complicity and oblivion, Carlos Menem's decrees pardoning 220 military personnel and 70 civilians from 1989 and the successive ones from 1990 on the opposite bank.

The right-wing extremism that prevails on the coasts that bathe the wide river, although disparate in its immediate consequences, seems to reinforce each other and illuminate itself in successive stages. It is difficult to explain why they prefer to be called liberals.

Suspicions in this regard, if systematized, could contribute to elucidating the current far-right agenda in this latitude, a task that obviously goes beyond an article. However, some methodological steps can be suggested, encouraging new developments and contributions. Firstly, both legislative initiatives sent from the executive branch to the chambers and those imposed by decree must be considered, regardless of their subsequent result, because they reflect the intentions and warn of such an agenda.

Cases such as Lacalle Herrera's public services law, most of whose articles were fortunately repealed by popular referendum, or the “omnibus law” by Javier Milei that sank in the Argentine Chamber of Deputies, must be considered because they reflect the orientation of the offensive. It is particularly interesting to analyze what the permeable extreme right proposes, that is, genuflex and surrender, as opposed to those from the north with nationalist roots, on whom it is not necessary to know whether they can impose them or not, but which – contrary to their attempts, although some still fail – will always produce destructive effects on life and the social fabric, certainly not negligible.

The sequence of accessions to power and the potential impact of some administrations on others may also be interesting. For example, I support the hypothesis that the devastating political corpus of Milei's current project finds strong roots in Lacalle Pou's administration, although it may seem more hidden to us, but we will leave that possibility for another time. In other synchronies different paths may occur. As busts of Uruguayan presidents are not planned to be placed in the Casa Rosada, the proposal will be a chronological historical periodization that should include:

80s: Sanguinetti-Menem. The anti-constitutional legacy of the violation of equality before the law and the consecration of barbarism and impunity: (i) expiry law in Uruguay (first Sanguinetti government) (ii) Menem pardon decrees in Argentina (including those from 1990)

90s: Menem-Lacalle Herrera-Sanguinetti. The demolition of States and theft: (a) Argentine economic emergency law (Menem); (b) Argentine State Reform Law (Menem); (c) Public Companies Law of Uruguay (Lacalle Herrera); (d) Argentine AFJP Law (Menem); (e) Uruguayan AFAPs Law (Sanguinetti, second government).

1st century: Lacalle Pou-Milei. (10) 2 economic measures that liberalize the Argentine economy (Macri); (3) Uruguay Urgent Consideration Law (Lacalle Pou); (4) Uruguayan Social Security Reform Law (Lacalle Pou); (5) Argentine security protocol (Milei through Bullrich); (6) Argentine Decree of Necessity and Urgency (Milei); (7) Argentine Omnibus Law (Milei); (XNUMX) Media Law (Lacalle Pou).

Almost all of these initiatives seem to be based on a tactic of surprising urgency and broad scope that takes into account the particularities of each country, each historical stage and even confronts different leadership styles. All were launched at the beginning of each administration and in magnitude and initiative with broad aspirations. Specifying continuities or differences will require several comparative operations of some depth.

Let's start with a very superficial and quick summary suggested by the arrangement of the busts with which I began these lines, fundamentally in relation to economic-social policies, since they are not comparable in the repressive dimension that should be the subject of another article. To this end, it is advisable to compare the omnibus law by Javier Milei and his DNU, with Carlos Menem's four laws indicated above.

Despite the temporal distance and the fact that not only do Carlos Menem's initiatives have legal validity and his policies have been adopted, but Javier Milei's only one in force so far is his DNU, we will take his omnibus law as proof of your purposes. In this sense, it can be seen from the table that, taking a quick look at just six major axes of economic interventions, Menemist influences are noticeable.

In both cases, at the same time, there is an overimposition of the presidential character to the detriment of parliamentary deliberation and negotiation: an article from the conservative newspaper La Nación, from November 1996, calculated that Menem issued 398 decrees in seven years, at a rate of 4,5 per week. However, in the case of Carlos Menem, he did not seem to have greater resistance in the chambers due to the fragility of his radicalism due to his early departure from the government, the control he achieved over the Peronist party apparatus and his relationship with the governors, in his majority also Peronists.

Although Javier Milei has encountered significantly dialogical opposition, the correlation of forces is not identical, nor is his level of experience and political dominance. Not even the threshold of socioeconomic indices with which each one begins their management, in addition to the sharing of the inflationary scourge, which makes the consequences of similar measures in the current context more devastating. Perhaps for this last reason, or due to the multiplicity of the historical fabric, Javier Milei's government must resort to repressive rigor and unprecedented cruelty, bordering on the validity of basic constitutional freedoms.

Moving busts on a chessboard and bringing Carlos Menem to the doors of the hall is just the symbolic reflection of having brought, with his policies, a new historical tragedy to the doors of social life.

*Emilio Cafassi is senior professor of sociology at the University of Buenos Aires.

Translation: Arthur Scavone.

Translator's note

[I] In Argentina, the term “cipayo” is used pejoratively to refer to a person who acts in a subservient, submissive or servile manner towards foreign interests, especially to the detriment of national interests. It is an expression with a negative connotation, associated with betrayal or submission to foreign powers.

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