Juan Décima and Facundo Iglesia, Buenos Aires Herald
EnergiesNet.com 12 27 2023
President Javier Milei sent his massive, 351-page-long, 664-article bill aimed at deeply reforming the Argentine state to Congress on Wednesday. In a post on X, his press team stated that it was the president’s decision to “free the productive forces of the nation from the shackles of the oppresive state in order to once again become a world power.”
Presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni spoke about the bill in his daily press conference earlier in the day, saying that the document included “profound and urgently needed reforms to laws regarding taxation, labor, criminal justice, energy, and voting matters.”
“It is meant as a complement to the decree, aiming at giving every Argentine freedom.”
The government has called for extraordinary sessions of Congress between December 26 and January 31 to treat the massive bill, which calls for a declaration of “public emergency” until December 31, 2025, which, in essence, would allow President Milei to legislate without having to go through Congress. It also grants the Executive Branch wide latitude in multiple areas, including the ability to privatize a slew of public companies.
Although the proposal is reminiscent of Carlos Menem’s so-called “state reform” in the 1990s, the scale of the current bill is without precedent. Among its provisions are also changes in the voting system, including the elimination of primary elections, the imposition of up to 5 years in prison for those who organize protests, the elimination of congressional approval for acquiring state debt, and a change in how the Lower House composition is determined.
The bill declares a state of public emergency regarding all legislation relating to “economic, financial, fiscal, social security, security, defense, tariff, energy, sanitary, administrative, and social” matters until December 31, 2025. According to Article 76 of the Constitution, this would allow the Executive Branch to legislate on those matters without having to go through Congress. The bill states that this emergency state could be extended once for two more years.
Also included in the project is the declaration that 41 state-owned companies are “subject to privatization,” the previous step to either selling them or their shareholding package. The bill lists YPF oil company, national airline carrier Aerolíneas Argentinas, Télam news agency, nuclear power plant company Nucleoeléctrica Argentina, and the Banco Nación bank, among many others. The text justifies this decision by stating that there is a “need to concentrate the state’s activity on its essential functions.”
A great deal of the text deals with “economic deregulation” — it repeals a law protecting small bookstores, legalizes ticket scalping, and greatly modifies the law dealing with fair competition. It also eliminates the National Theater Institute and the National Fund for the Arts.
The document aims to eliminate the formula that automatically updates pensions according to inflation, replacing it with increases made by decree.
It also includes a tax amnesty for undeclared assets in the country and abroad. Cash, shareholdings, real estate, securities, and intangible assets, as well as cryptocurrencies, may be registered — the only exceptions are depositsmade in tax havens. Those who declare assets for less than US$100,000 are not required to make any contribution, but those who declare assets for higher amounts must contribute at rates ranging from 5 to 15%.
Security and criminal justice
In line with the controversial “anti-protest” security protocol announced last week by Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, the bill devotes one of its sections to ample provisions regarding social protest. In addition to 5-year prison sentences for organizing what it calls a “gathering or rally,” it also says that anyone who disrupts the normal functioning of public services can receive up to 3-year prison sentences. An article of the bill defines gatherings or rallies as the “intentional and temporary gathering of three or more people in a public space with the purpose of exercising the alluded rights,” although it does not clarify which rights it refers to.
The bill also asks for changes in the criminal justice system that, on the surface, seem to mimic practices of the United States. Not only does it call for the implementation of juror-based court proceedings, but it also states that judges wear “black robes and use a gavel to open and close sessions.”
Among the more worrisome items is the loosening of the legal provisions used to determine self-defense; among them, it states that the relatives of a murdered person cannot make legal claims if the perpetrator of the homicide either avoided a crime or tried to prevent the victim from fleeing the scene.
The bill loosens security agents’ protocols regarding the use of firearms. Per the current penal code, they are allowed to use them only when their lives or the lives of others are in danger. The new bill is vaguer, allowing members of security forces to use firearms “in the fulfillment of a duty or their legitimate exercise of their right, authority, or position.”
Also among the proposed modifications is a change to the Glacier Law, a piece of legislation that was passed in 2011 with the intention of protecting glaciers and the periglacial environment. If Milei’s bill passes, economic activities would be allowed in periglacial zones. The bill also modifies the Forestry Law, allowing logging in areas where it was forbidden.
buenosairesherald.com 12 27 2023