Argentina Senate Narrowly Approves President Milei's Economic Reform Amid Violent Protests
Argentina Senate Narrowly Approves President Milei's Economic Reform Amid Violent Protests

Argentina's Senate has narrowly approved President Javier Milei's controversial economic reform package amid violent clashes between protesters and riot police outside Congress in Buenos Aires.

Demonstrators, who believe the measures will negatively impact millions of Argentines, threw petrol bombs and stones, setting cars on fire. Several people were injured, and local media described the scene on Wednesday as a "battlefield."

The reforms, aimed at revitalizing the country's struggling economy, include declaring a state of economic emergency, reducing pensions, and weakening labor rights. President Milei, a right-wing economist, was elected during a severe economic crisis that he has been trying to address since taking office six months ago.

Currently, annual inflation in Argentina is approaching 300%, with over half of the population living in poverty. President Milei's swift measures are strongly opposed by leftist political parties, labor unions, and social organizations.

The Senate vote initially ended in a tie, 36-36, but Vice-President Victoria Villarruel broke the tie, leading to a preliminary passage of the bill on Wednesday. "For those Argentines who suffer, who wait, who do not want to see their children leave the country... my vote is affirmative," Ms. Villarruel said after breaking the tie.

The 328-article bill will now undergo detailed scrutiny point by point before its anticipated final approval on Thursday. Subsequently, it will return to the lower house for the final green light.

Ahead of the Senate vote, protesters chanted slogans like "The country is not for sale, the country is defended," while banners criticized the President's stance toward the state. Scuffles erupted when protesters attempted to breach fences to reach Congress, prompting police to use pepper spray and demonstrators to throw rocks.

Dozens of protesters and a few MPs required medical attention, according to observers and opposition MPs. At least five opposition MPs were hospitalized, legislator Cecilia Moreau told AFP news agency. Approximately 20 police officers were also injured, and security forces arrested 15 people.

"We cannot believe that in Argentina we are debating a law that will set us back 100 years," said Fabio Nunez, a 55-year-old lawyer participating in the protest.

President Milei's office issued a statement thanking security forces for suppressing what it described as "terrorists" attempting to carry out a coup d'état. "We are going to change Argentina, we are going to make it the most liberal country in the world," Mr. Milei declared at a conference in Buenos Aires.

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