The massive demonstrations in favor of the public university pose the first limit to Javier Milei’s political experiment

Javier Milei This Tuesday he encountered the first major obstacle to experiment politician who leads and with whom he intends to convert Argentina is one of the most liberal countries in the world. After four months of insistent attacks and disqualifications of those who do not share his project, the Argentine president has performed a miracle, almost a mixture of water and oil: united in the same event Peronists, radicals, social democrats, students, teachers, the two trade union confederations and even ultra-liberal legislators.

«UBA defends itself!»was the cry in the center of Buenos Aires, collapsed since midday by the tens and tens of thousands of people who gathered at the Congress, first, and in the Plaza de Mayo, then, to leave a message at the doors of the Pink House: «In defense of public education». The demonstration was the most important since Milei came to government on 10 December last year.

The University of Buenos Aires (UBA) is a higher education center founded in 1821 and where Argentines and foreigners can do so graduate for free. Although UBA led the protest, it it has spread to several provinceswith a strong axis inside Cordoba, in the center of the town. The National University of Córdoba is Argentina’s oldest, founded in 1613, and more than 50,000 people descended to defend it during the day. In November Milei won in Córdoba with 76% of the votes.

The dispute between government and universities arises from financing of the vast network of public universitieswhich a good part of Argentines identify with the power of their vast middle class and the possibility of social promotion. UBA counts among its pride the five Argentine Nobel Prize winners, who were students and, in some cases, professors of its faculty. The UBA has also awarded the country 16 presidents.

«How can I not defend the public university, if It made me who I always wanted to be.? A biologist who defends nature. I think my parents couldn’t have paid for a private university,” Juan Cruz Martín, a 27-year-old biologist who joined the march, told EL MUNDO.

«I am the son of Spanish immigrants and I owe the possibility of social advancement to the free public university», repeated in recent days Jesús Rodríguez, Raúl Alfonsín’s Minister of Economy in the 1980s.

In those years, the Argentine democratic spring, no one proposed what is repeated today by sectors of the Milei government and by the president himself: the UBA spends its budget in an obscure way, feeding on public resources, and promotes ideological indoctrination.

The matter of «indoctrination» falls by its own weight: Milei has several UBA graduates among its ministers. Another issue is budget management: public universities have their academic and budgetary autonomy guaranteed, but the government believes that the management of funds must be controlled, since the university would be a kind of «black box» of politics , especially of the radicalism of a party that historically leads the student centers of Argentine higher education institutions.

While this dispute is being resolved, the UBA accuses the government of defund it on purpose. «He the budget cut is 61%, and the reduction of salaries, in the four months that Milei is in government, by 35%,» said Matías Ruiz, head of the UBA Treasury. «We are enthusiastic about the support we receive from civil society in this situation,» – he added Ruiz.

Guillermo Francos, Milei’s interior minister, believes the protesters are unaware of what is happening: «We are all understanding, except those marching today, who still don’t understand what the situation is in the country.»

Among those who disagree with Francos are deputies from La Libertad Avanza (LLA), Milei’s party. Nine deputies in the province of Buenos Airesthe most powerful in the country, they expressed in a statement their differences with the government: «We once again express our commitment to the defense of public education, the historical pride of our country. The healthy discussion that the national government intends to have regarding the dimension of the State and its responsibilities cannot in any way affect the compliance with its essential obligations».

But President, more and more in his castle he turned to social networks disqualify the march and highlight its «politicisation». Milei has «liked» or spread several posts stating that the mobilization is against the verification of the use of university budget funds.

«An image that he shared several times was the one taken in the direction of Plaza de Mayo, where you can see the flags with the slogans and logos of the CGT (General Confederation of Labor) and the Communist Party. «Are there any doubts? is it a march? political and not student?» or «This is how the march in Plaza de Mayo is prepared: logo of the CGT and symbol of the communist hammer and sickle. Ah, but the march is not political, eh», read some posts that the president retweeted on the social network«, he pointed The nation.

The march comes just hours after Milei addressed a 15-minute message to the country on Monday evening in which he celebrated the first quarter of financial surplus in 18 years, although several economists stressed that this result was achieved thanks to the postponement of an important series of payments by the State.