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Argentina's Battle for Equity: Unpacking the Impact of President Milei's Radical Economic Reforms on Indigenous and Black Communities

By Guest Writer Krys Cerisier


This week, Argentina has seen thousands of people take to the streets in protest throughout cities across the country, after new President Javier Milei enacted el Decreto de Necesidad y Urgencia (Decree of Necessity), a move meant to drastically open up Argentina’s economy. This radical economic overhaul that includes the elimination of provisions meant to protect the working class, Immigrant, and Indigenous communities, is the neo-liberal future Milei promised during his campaign. Milei won on a platform of xenophobia, climate change denial, a U.S.-centered foreign policy, and a mission to liberalize Argentina’s economy. Argentina's inflation crisis was at the center of the election, as the country’s current rate is at an astronomical 147%, leading the world as the largest debtor to the International Monetary Fund. Milei’s proposed solutions to Argentina's biggest issues will completely change the political and economic landscape of the country and will have the most harmful impact on Argentina’s Indigenous, poor, and growing Black migrant communities. This electoral pattern of fascism in Latin America has had a substantial impact on human and environmental rights. We have seen this through Latin America’s conservative tide in Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador, where the continuation of neoliberal economic policies perpetuates underlying systemic flaws.


Milei’s denial of human impact on climate change is already having a direct impact on Indigenous communities and resource extraction projects in Argentina, the fourth-largest lithium producer in the world. A majority of these lithium mines reside in Jujuy, which holds a majority of Argentina’s Indigenous population, including the Atacama and Colla people. These communities have been organizing to defend the land against the harmful impacts of lithium extraction. These mines pose a growing threat to freshwater, which is already lacking, and also contaminate the air quality, impacting local populations, biodiversity, and livestock. Milei’s plan to privatize and deregulate Argentina's majority state-owned energy company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales, is especially dangerous. In the province of Neuquén, where the YPS conducts most of its projects, there is already a history of infringing on Indigenous rights and autonomy. In 2013, the Indigenous Mapuche Confederation held a series of protests against a contract between the YPS and U.S. oil company Chevron, approved without the consent of the Indigenous communities and posing numerous environmental rights violations. The privatization of the YPS would increase foreign control over Argentina’s energy and further limit oversight of compliance with environmental laws. Additionally, the Governor of Jujuy approved a new provisional constitution for the province this year that places heavy restrictions on property ownership and methods of protests. This is set to have a devastating impact on the over 300 Indigenous communities in Jujuy, not all of whom carry administrative paperwork that ‘legally’ entitles them to the land. On several occasions, Milei has spoken on his plan to strengthen laws concerning property ownership to accommodate foreign private interests. This is a colonial tactic to steal land from Indigenous communities whose right to land predates all of these colonial systems. Indigenous resistance continues to grow in the provinces of Jujuy and Neuquén against the continuous land theft for the sake of mining, as Indigenous communities remain at the forefront of the climate crisis.


The impact of Milei’s privatization plan also extends to Argentina’s rapidly growing Black migrant population. Over the past 15 years, Argentina has seen a rapid increase in migration from Haiti, Senegal, Brazil, Uruguay, and Colombia, creating a growing Black community in Buenos Aires, Rosario, and Cordoba. Following the election of Milei, migrant access to social programs like free education and healthcare has been under direct threat. The new president has proposed excluding non-Argentine nationals from participating in the benefits of these social programs. However, this does not come without resistance, as Afro-Argentines and recent Black migrant communities, specifically in Buenos Aires, have been organizing to protect and acknowledge the rights of Black people in Argentina. This Pan-African solidarity shown between Afro-Argentines and Black migrants was exemplified this past November when Argentina's first Black History March was held in Buenos Aires. Afro-Argentines, along with Haitians, Senegalese, Afro-Brazilians, and Colombians, came together to combat the rise of racism and xenophobia in Argentina.


Like in the U.S. and Brazil, the rise of far-right extremism always impacts marginalized communities the hardest. Cutting and privatizing needed social programs and limiting the rights of Indigenous and migrant communities create the perfect conditions for right-wing governments to follow through on imperialistic ambitions. This then leads to national governments handing over local autonomy to foreign and private powers, who often act without accountability, as we have seen in Panama. Milei’s promise to privatize education and healthcare, put guns in schools, ignore climate goals, restrict Indigenous and migrant rights, and support U.S. wars sounds all too familiar to the beginning of fascism and the decline in democracy. As the political, social, and demographic makeup of Argentina rapidly changes, it is important to maintain solidarity with all communities facing the threat of people over profit.


Krys Cerisier is a Haitian Panamanian organizer from the Bronx, New York. Kris is an organizer and journalist working to connect Afro-Latine diaspora communities to Black grassroots movements in Latin America. Cerisier focuses on the ongoing struggle for Black, Indigenous and Queer communities in Latin America to achieve Liberation and visibility. Cerisier works within organizations like the Black Alliance for Peace and the Black Indigenous Liberation Movement to strengthen Afro-Latine solidarity with the global Black community. You can find Krys at @kryscerisier (Instagram) and @krystalcerisier (Twitter).

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