The mobilization in defense of public education is destabilizing Miley's government

Organizers counted 800,000 people, 150,000 according to Buenos Aires city police, more than a million in the entire country where Security Minister Patricia Bullrich’s repressive protocol did not exist. The crowd that marched from Congress to the Plaza de Mayo protesting Javier Milei’s austerity plan for the university system stood out on Tuesday with the instruction: “demonstrate with a book in hand.”

Hundreds of thousands of people who participated in the march showed what represents them: “Mother a housewife, father a bricklayer, daughter a university teacher”. Along with chanting and clapping, they brandished classic sociological works such as Max Weber and Emile Durkheim, as well as books by Juan Rulfo and Rodolfo Walsh. Because the image of the book becomes the direct antagonist of the president, known for his compulsion to like and retweet messages on X to mark his contempt for his detractors. “The book is a symbol of education: carrying a book makes this object/icon very difficult to suppress,” explained the student.

During the protest, songs were sung against Milea to leave. In this sense, politics was present without any group or party being able to take the lead. But perhaps the most ingenious message is that of a simple poster calling for the production of scientific knowledge. “No science, no Conan” (this is the name of the dead dog that Milei cloned in four copies in the USA).

A document read during the mobilization by Piera Fernández De Piccoli, president of the Federación Universitaria Argentina (FUA), says:

“We defend access to public higher education as a right. We believe in the equalizing capacity of free public education, in the transformative power of universities as a powerful tool for upward social mobility, and in the distinct and significant contribution of scientific production.” “All the problems we face can be solved by more education and public universities, more investment in science and technology. We want our institutions to be a mechanism that will enable Argentina to overcome structural inequalities and move on the path of development and sovereignty. Education saves and frees us. We call on Argentine society to defend it. »

“This demonstration is not a mobilization of the castes, nor of the “piqueteros”, it is a mobilization that was certainly crossed by many voters of Milei…, a sector of society that bets on individual progress, but which nevertheless took advantage of the public university.” (Victor Taricco, director of UBA communications)

Funds intended for the University

The government says it has already transferred all the funds to the universities and that the dispute has been resolved as UBA sources told the media that the funds could arrive this week, but that they would remain well short of the demand that motivated the mobilization. “Following the alleged Government proposal, the budget reduction for UBA’s operational costs is 61 percent,” UBA vice-chancellor Emiliano Yacobitti said after the announcement by the Ministry of Human Capital last Thursday.

Mr. Yacobitti clarified that the 70% increase for the months of March and May, not retroactively, “implies an annual update of only 105% against an average inflation of 300% in the area of ​​operating costs, knowing that the budget for 2023 was approved in 2022 This is why Sergio Massa, the Minister of Economy (2022-2023), approved budget increases every three months. In addition, the universities point out that the Government’s offer concerns only a minority item of their budget – their business – while not includes wages that make up 90 percent.

Alfredo Lazzaretti, rector of the National University of Mar del Plata, pointed out that “the joint convention cannot succeed because of a unilateral executive decision”.

A paradigm shift?

The very massive mobilization of April 23 undermined the two pillars that support Milei: the control of the streets that he tried in vain to establish during the first months of his mandate with the help of the repressive protocol of the security minister, Patricia Bullrich, did not exist on Tuesday, and the monolithic support of the youth. Because it was young people who made up the majority of the demonstrators, high school students and entire elementary school classes with their teachers; despite the government trying exclusively to point to the presence of Kirchnerism, the left, the “Piqueteros” and the CGT and other unions, which in itself shows an amalgam rarely seen in two decades.

The president began the day with angry retweets against the public university and turned off his phone after the protest, until he posted a picture of a lion drinking “leftist tears” from a mug.

“We will try to put out the fire,” people close to the president told the media outlet LPO (La Política Online), although they foresee further clashes between ministers before the conflict is resolved. “This march “would not have happened if, a month ago, we gave them money that Mr. Caputo (Finance Minister) did not want to release,” said sources close to Human Capital Minister Sandra Pettovello. Other government sources say that Minister Pettovello will “fall on some points” but believe the time has come for other resignations. Especially they quote Alejandro “Galleguito” Álvarez, the undersecretary of university policy who proposed to “screw up” the university system.

The minister is not exempt from criticism, because the Secretariat for Education depends on her signature. Hours before the march, the minister’s closest official, Maximiliano Keczeli, resigned as secretary for legal and administrative coordination. Gerardo Marcelo Hita, director of the National Coordinating Council for Social Policy, who accepted the position of interim chairman of the National Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts (INCAA) in February, also left his post. Both join more than 15 officials who have left their posts since the administration began.

“The government has gone from indifference to confusion. Mixing the tolerance of a society tired of inflation with a blank check for anything is a logical consequence of being surrounded by people who do not have the sense to detect a fire before it is reported, which is what the president needs,” supports journalist Ignacio Fidanza from the LPO. “Milei had a thousand an opportunity to avoid the TGV that took him away on Tuesday, but he did not see it. The last missed opportunity was a speech on all television channels the day before, a boring spectacle of self-congratulation… The impressive mobilization in defense of public education is not Waterloo, but it remains to be seen how will react to the government, which has a great talent for turning inconveniences into bitter defeats (the fall of the omnibus law). Milei’s “chainsaw” policy worked well during the campaign, but there are no democratic governments that open up room for agreement. The tactic includes bargaining . »

Lack of political leadership

Over the course of four months, Milea’s government had to face several protests: December 26, 2023 in front of the Palace of Justice, January 24, 2024, a general strike called by all unions, March 8, International Women’s Day, March 24, National Women’s Day Remembrance , Istina i Pravda and finally the one on April 23rd, the most massive.

Unable to rule in a coup or outright dictatorial manner, faced with the defensive and intact energy of the Argentines, Milei and his government continue their cruel, destructive and negationist attacks. But so far there is no political opposition capable of gathering all that energy and proposing a program and organization worthy of the situation.

Perhaps the government’s determination to liquidate historic democratic conquests, such as public education, facilitates the emergence of young leaders who transcend all existing political representations.

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