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The keys to Argentina’s sweeping reform bill

Ultra-right wing President Javier Milei’s radical initiative will be fast-tracked through Congress in extraordinary sessions

President Javier Milei, on the day of his inauguration at the Casa Rosada.
President Javier Milei, on the day of his inauguration at the Casa Rosada.AGUSTIN MARCARIAN (REUTERS)

On December 27, the ultra-right-wing Argentine President Javier Milei presented a radical bill to Congress declaring the country in a state of “public emergency.” The far-reaching reforms contained within 664 articles will, if passed, give his government sweeping powers regarding economic, fiscal, taxation, security, defense, energy and health over a period of two years with the option to extend these powers by two additional years. These are reforms that could not be included in the Necessity and Urgency Decree (DNU) that was signed several days ago and that comes into force on December 29.

The bill will be fast-tracked via extraordinary sessions of Congress. If it is approved, Milei will have a greater degree of legislative power ceded to the presidency, specifically competences that correspond to both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, where his party, La Libertad Avanza (Liberty Advances), holds a minority of seats. The 664 articles address a variety of issues, ranging from the reform of the political system and the control of social protests to the the resale of tickets for sporting events.

Reform of the political system

The bill eliminates the Simultaneous and Mandatory Open Primary Elections (PASO), in which candidatures are determined for national office. It also seeks to restructure the Chamber of Deputies to make it easier to include lawmakers from second and third electoral forces — namely Milei’s coalition party. It also removes free advertising spaces for candidates and eliminates the ceiling for contributions.

Crackdown on social protests

The bill includes a crackdown on social protests. Penalties range from one year to six behind bars. Milei aims to have any “intentional and temporary gathering of three or more persons” considered a crime should it impede free transit or the provision of public services. The text states that the authorities must be notified of any demonstration in advance — even “spontaneous” ones — and the Ministry of Security may oppose it or propose changes. Protest organizers will have to declare the persons responsible for calling the event to facilitate their identification should a penalty be warranted. The bill gives legal form to the anti-protest protocol signed two weeks ago by the Minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich.

Rights to self-defense

Regarding security, the bill also introduces amendments to the Penal Code to broaden the right to legitimate self-defense and offer the security forces greater support. On this point, the text also establishes that the person who commits a crime or, in the case of death, his relatives “do not have the right to file a complaint or sue the person preventing the crime or preventing flight.” The text also legislates on “resistance to authority” and establishes penalties of up to six years for anyone who “uses intimidation or force against a public official or against the person who assists them at their request.”

Privatization

The bill proposes that 41 public enterprises are “subject to privatization.” The list includes the oil company YPF; the flagship airline, Aerolíneas Argentinas; the railroads and the post office; the Casa de la Moneda (the Argentine mint) and the public media, such as the news agency Télam. The text justifies the measure with “the need to concentrate the activity of the State on its essential functions.”

Money laundering

The text promotes the laundering of capital from large fortunes. According to the bill, it will allow the regularization of up to $100,000 in cash, real estate or cryptocurrencies held in Argentina or abroad tax-free until November 30 next year. A “special regularization tax” will be created for laundering in excess of $100,000. Whoever adheres to the regularization will not have to “provide additional documentation or information regarding the adherence to the regime.”

Reform of the Hydrocarbons Law

The bill modifies the hydrocarbons law and establishes that the “main objectives” of producing the energy is “to maximize the income obtained from the exploitation of the resources and to satisfy the hydrocarbon needs of the country.” The text states that the government will not be able to intervene or fix prices “in any of the production stages” of gas and oil and that there will be “free international trade in hydrocarbons.”

Fees for foreigners in public universities

State-run higher education institutions will be free of charge for both Argentinians and foreigners with permanent residence, according to the bill. The text establishes that it is forbidden to charge any kind of fee, although public universities may charge a fee to those foreigners without permanent residence. Regarding education, the bill also proposes students take an exam to accredit their level of performance at the end of high school and states that “continuous training and evaluation” will be one of the basic elements for the promotion of teachers.

Ratification of the DNU

The bill seeks to ratify the Necessity and Urgency Decree (DNU) whose 300 reforms dismantle the existing structure of the Argentinian State by repealing laws, eliminating dozens of state regulations, enabling the privatization of public companies, opening the door to operations in dollars and making the labor market and health system more flexible. The DNU is being challenged in Congress, the courts and on the streets by those who consider it “unconstitutional.”

Other articles

Among its more than 600 articles, the omnibus bill will also allow the government to take on external debt in a foreign currency without maximum limits established by Congress; introduce a broad 15% tax on exports, with exceptions; the closing of cultural organizations; scrapping a uniform price for the sale of books; modifying the regulations regarding Indigenous forests, glaciers and the burning of pastures; authorizing the resale of tickets with no price cap for sporting events; protecting “children from the moment of their conception,” thereby contradicting the laws on abortion; simplifying divorce; and also modifying the law on mental health.

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