If Javier Milei wins in Sunday’s elections and implements the measures he has proposed, such as cutting rights, he could provoke social resistance due to the threat he represents to the achievements and rights conquered in the country’s history, but the same will also happen if Milei does not fulfill his promises, says Natalia Souto, deputy of the Frente de Todos bloc of the Argentine parliament.
Souto, a political scientist, journalist and activist of the Barrios de Pie Movement, spoke with lacommunis.org and bolpress.com about the Argentine situation days before the national elections. In the interview, Souto said that the support for Milei in Las PASO was a “angry vote” or punishment, and not necessarily an endorsement of all his proposals, such as the free bearing of weapons. As for the issue of indigenous peoples, it is mentioned that they were not given sufficient representation in Argentine politics, despite being an important part of the population. However, the interviewee emphasizes that Union for the Fatherland has proposals to recognize indigenous territories and guarantee consultation on issues related to the extraction of natural resources. The interviewee also talks about the economic situation and the need to stabilize it through the generation of resources and the added value in exports. Ultimately, the future of Argentina will depend on who wins the elections and what economic approach is adopted.
At an exhibition in Stuttgart, you said that if Milei wins the election and does what he said he was going to do, or doesn’t do what he said he was going to do, a civil war could happen. Can you expand on that topic?
Yes. I don’t know about the civil war, but I do think there will be a lot of social resistance in either case. On the one hand, as I expressed at the time, because if he wins and does part of the measures — which he said he was going to do — it is to go backwards in all the rights conquered since the return of democracy. He, Milei, has a proposal to cut all those rights, he even talks about how there shouldn’t have been, that there shouldn’t have been in any kind of regulation, that everything is the free market, that’s what freedom is for him and he says specifically that he’s going to eliminate the Ministry of Health, of Education, that he wants to tariff Education. He proposes for example vouchers, he proposes the elimination of severance payments…, well there are a lot of measures, but basically all of them are anti-rights. So, what I wanted to say that day at the exhibition is that, if he wins and advances with all these measures, or with some of them, obviously there will be social resistance, because we are a people who have conquered rights, but who also have a lot of experience of struggle. The other fundamental issue is that of human rights. He has a totally negationist attitude with respect to the last military dictatorship, he vindicates the genocidaires to the genocidal military the same and Argentina in that even when Mauricio Macri was president and wanted to put the 2 ×1 (a proposal to calculate twice the days of detention of the repressors of the dictatorship) all the people came out to the streets, because we already said never again. Obviously there is going to be resistance if he moves forward with all these measures.
On the other hand, if he doesn’t do what he said he’s going to do or doesn’t change anything, there’s going to be social unrest as well.
30 years ago Argentina traveled the path of privatization, the state was reduced and the market was left in the leading work of the economy and society; but in 2001 that model exploded. Looking at the polls and the results of the PASO, does this mean that Argentine society wants to repeat what was already done once?
Milei and the libertarians, the right in general, present themselves as something new, but in reality they are the same as what you were saying just now, that is, they are the ones who led us to the crisis of 2001. They are the same approaches, they are the same characters who vindicate Domingo Cavallo, the Minister of Economy at that time, that is, this is the same, but now he paints his face and they are posed as something new, as anti-system. Our assessment is that Argentine society does not want that, what is certain is that it is a little angry and in the face of discontent it turns there. But there is a lot of misinformation as well. When you ask someone who votes for Milei: Do you want education to be privatized, health to be privatized, the state to no longer exist? He says to you: no, no way. So, it’s not that Argentine society has righted itself, but that there is a “angry vote” that, in this election this Sunday, is going to turn around. Obviously I think that we are going to go to a balloting scenario with Milei, but I think that, in recent weeks, with a lot of things that happened here in our country, it has become clear that Argentine society has not turned to the right, but that it does have a grudge and what Milei is proposing in some way is to channel that grudge and break with the “status quo”. But that does not mean that, for example, the majority of Milei voters endorse the sale of organs. He proposes that everyone can sell their organs, that is, if you need money, sell an organ.
How can it be understood that someone who proposes to people to sell their kidneys if they have economic problems has achieved 29% support in Las PASO?
It is a “angry vote”, a punishment vote that must be seen if it is now crystallized in the same way in this election that is definitive. The result we are talking about (Milei winner of the PASO) was of the PASO that are the primary elections that are open here and decide the internal candidacies of each political grouping or of each political space. It does not have a concrete result, this Sunday’s one does have a concrete result. So I think that there is going to be a change there and that it is voted with more rationality and that even, as a result of a lot of things that happened, for example, last week Milei came out to say that the Argentine peso was worthless and that it was the same as an excrement, that caused a run to change. Now, as he has been proposing dollarization, that run will change that caused prices to rise again, so a lot of people realized that Milei’s proposal actually generates more poverty and affects wages directly. So, that actually played against him, because it was a concrete sample of what they are proposing for the economy that is going to generate more poverty and more inequality.
The issue of insecurity in Argentina seems to be very important. Milei proposes the free bearing of weapons. What consequences would this have for Argentine society?
… that’s why, a disaster. After the PASSAGE he began to put in concrete some measures, to explain his measures, and the free bearing of arms does not generate consensus in Argentine society. Without law, without the state, with the free carrying of weapons, that also generates fear in a large part of the population. So, the majority of people do not agree with that, yes a very small part of those who voted, over there yes it is fascist, liberal but more than thirty percent of the Argentine population does not agree with that, but voted a punishment vote, a “angry vote”. When surveys are made asking specifically: Do you agree with the free bearing of weapons, with the sale of organs, with tariffs on health, education, that I have not been? They tell you no. It’s kind of weird to explain, but well, that’s why the synthesis is that it was a “angry vote” or punishment that happened in the primaries.
Ricardo Changala: In the debate and positions of the candidates there are no proposals or even references to the multicultural reality of Argentina, to the rights of indigenous peoples?
It seems to me that it has to do with a part with the particularities of our country. It is true that it is not on campaign issues, but it is a concern of, at least, progressive forces. The National Constitution obviously includes all this subject, there is a part that is not respected later, it is clear, but there is the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs, which came having a fairly active role and then there is what happened in Jujuy, this unconstitutional reform that the governor of that province promoted behind the back of the communities saying that he consulted them and it turns out that he did not.
There was a very important social resistance, Gerardo Morales the governor loses that primary election, and he doesn’t end up gaining a political tool from the sectors that resisted that reform, that mobilized with a lot of awareness with what was happening a lot of social awareness with what was happening in Jujuy.
We, a group of deputies from the Chamber of Deputies, from the Human Rights Commission, traveled to Jujuy, the Secretary of Human Rights also traveled, the Justicialist Party (PJ) of the province intervened, the President of the Nation received the communities, but then when there was the election there was no political tool that could capitalize on all that organization and that resistance. It seems to me that somewhat the problem, to put it in some way, is the lack of a political tool of the compañeros, of the brothers of the original peoples, that can have a place in the currently genuine political representation, because it is true that it is a very important part of our population and they do not have representatives. It is the same thing that happens with women and with others from society who in reality and in society occupy very important places they are part of the organization of the economy leadership places, but then they are not in the decision-making places.
In the specific case of Unión por la Patria, is there any type of proposal or proposal in your program on your agenda that has to do with the theme of the indigenous people?
Yes, he is. There is, for example, the law to recognize the territories of the original peoples, this that it is necessary to consult for the extraction of minerals or natural resources. In general, the problem of the large economic groups and the large businesses is that the mineral extractions are on lands that are generally ancestral to the original peoples. I spoke to many of them and some of them are not against, for example, a gas pipeline passing through their territory; now what they are saying is‘ ‘Let’s sit down, let’s chat, let’s see how we do; what cannot happen is that they pass us by without consulting us.’ Some people have this position, others do not, but the truth is that they are not completely consulted. There is a draft law on community land ownership that says that first they are given the domain and then you have to consult any initiative that is made on those territories; that is one of the main postulates of Union for the homeland with respect to the original peoples, which is basically their claim. We have permanent contact with them. As I was telling you, I traveled to Jujuy, we received you at the Malón de la Paz in the Chamber of Deputies on repeated occasions, we repudiated everything that happened in Jujuy with the constitutional reform, we created a bicameral commission investigating the repression of Jujuy, presentations were made at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, because human rights were violated, but it is a complex issue to solve because they touch many interests but we are accompanying the brothers and sisters trying to give them all the support we can and from my point of view it would be great if they could generate a social political tool from which they can also have a voice in politics.
Looking a little into the future, what is going to happen in Argentina in the next time?
What will happen in Argentina in the future will depend on who wins the presidential elections because we have a situation of 9% indigence and more than thirty percent poverty. This gives you more than 40 percent, which is a lot, with an inflation level of 120% year-on-year. Why is this situation occurring? Beyond a structural issue that we have as a country, in the last four years prior to the last four years, we had the loan that the government of Mauricio Macri took with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that exceeds 126 times the repayment capacity of Argentina. That loan was granted in violation of the IMF’s Charter, but in addition to that money, not a single peso was left in Argentina, all of it was leaked through large companies and banks. During the government of Mauricio Macri, the amount equivalent to a gross domestic product of Argentina escaped, that money is abroad, a criminal case was initiated from the government so that that money returns to Argentina, well obviously the opposition disagrees; we had the pandemic, then a tremendous drought and then all these renegotiations with the International Monetary Fund that obviously impose some measures are being negotiated, within what is possible, to try to stabilize the economic situation. That’s the situation we have today.
What’s going to happen? We, Union for the Fatherland, have a program on what to do to stabilize the economy and get out of this situation and that has to do above all with generating resources. We have the gas pipeline and petroleum gas, liquid natural gas for export; the pipeline that would allow us to supply our country, but also export to Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and Europe is already being completed within the framework of the energy crisis in Europe. That would allow us to save money on the energy we consume, but also to be able to export. The same thing happens in the countryside with certain benefits to agricultural and livestock production, and also the issue of lithium and other metals. Now, what we propose is that this must be done responsibly so as not to harm the environment, but we also have to see under what conditions we export so that it enters us in foreign exchange. Today, mining only leaves 5% of what it bills in the country and in most cases it is under-invoiced. So there we have a lot of situations that need to be solved, that need to be improved. It depends on who governs on what is going to be done with that. We have the conditions to get ahead, stabilize the economy and basically it is a plan that has to do with work, but also with giving added value to what we export; we have to be able to substitute imports and generate added value in the products we export to generate more foreign exchange and thus be able to stabilize our economy. That is the general and very summarized approach of the government that we have of “Union for the Fatherland”. Other candidates have another model that is the one that has been happening in Argentina for many years and that we lived it in 2001 with the crisis, it is that neoliberal economic model of the “every man for himself” that leads Argentina to ruin. It depends on who wins what will happen in the country.”