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In a nationally televised speech last night, Argentine President Javier Milei declared war on the nation’s people, announcing a sweeping “urgency and necessity decree” (DNU) to completely deregulate the economy and eliminate all laws and regulations that protect living standards and prevent wholesale financial looting and speculation. If not overturned, this neoliberal tract will rip apart the entire economic and social fabric of the country in the name of a “freedom” that fascist Hayekian theory says will liberate the Argentine people from the oppression of the state. Milei, who is incapable of speaking extemporaneously, read the DNU surrounded by his expressionless, stiff-looking cabinet ministers, describing it as necessary to “rebuild the Argentine economy” and address the emergency left by the previous government, whose legacy, he said, was “the worst in history.” This “shock policy,” he told citizens, is what the country needs. Then he warned, “there’s more to come” in future legislation. “Just wait.”

He had barely finished speaking when thousands of Argentines, in the capital of Buenos Aires and in the provinces, made their opinions heard by taking to their balconies, the sidewalks, and the streets with their famous pots and pans to denounce the fascist DNU. Several thousand marched to the Congress building in Buenos Aires, some carrying flags, warning they won’t tolerate this assault on their livelihoods and futures. Charges that this is a return to the neoliberal policies of the 1976-83 military dictatorship, or the “Chicago Boys” policies of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, were heard everywhere.

The DNU, whose constitutionality is already being challenged, includes 360 different articles and overturns 30 laws that include social protections, regulate trade, protect consumers and workers, control prices of basic goods, including food, health insurance programs, and rents. Milei explained that the decree even represents “pre-dollarization,” as it allows signing contracts in dollars and allows dollars to be purchased freely even on the black market. Under the guise of making labor laws more “flexible,” the DNU eliminates fundamental workers’ rights, limiting severance pay and overtime, among other things. All public sector companies are to be privatized. Everything is up for grabs: state airlines, public media, companies that build nuclear reactors, satellites and other high-tech products, the state-run Banco de la Nación, founded in 1891, the state oil company YPF, ports, railroads, energy companies, public labs that produce medicine and vaccines, and so on. There is no limit on exports or on imports. The local market can be flooded with cheap foreign products that will put smaller companies out of business.

Interviewed today by Radio Rivadavia, Milei said he’s doing the country a favor with this decree, because it will help people. It’s a decree “in favor of the market, not corporations,” and will hurt “the caste”—the political class—not the people. Not exactly.

Referring to last night’s protests, he sadistically suggested that people “are perhaps suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. They’ve embraced and are smitten with the model that impoverishes them. There are some people who look at communism with nostalgia, love and affection,” he said. “Do you realize the shock of freedom that this [decree] implies?”