Argentina: “The new government attacks human rights from all sides”

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo protest President Javier Milei's reforms in Buenos Aires, January 2024 ©Shutterstock

Juliana Miranda has defended human rights for over ten years in her country, Argentina. With his regressive policies, the newly elected President Javier Milei threatens to revert all the significant advances her organisation, the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), has worked for. She reflects on the risks Argentinian people face and how civil society can resist.

How would you describe the current human rights situation in Argentina?

    It is challenging. The new government attacks human rights from all sides. The economic situation deteriorated rapidly. The ruling political elites are trying to change the social structure and are promoting the withdrawal of the State in favour of deregulation and lack of protection. However, the Argentinian human rights movement shows a broad capacity to resist the attacks.

    How do these policies impact human rights defenders and torture survivors?

      The boundaries for political violence are shifting. Human rights defenders and various vulnerable groups are targeted on social media and in the mainstream media. The government seeks to close or defund state agencies that do vital work for these groups, such as the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs and the National Institute against Discrimination, Racism and Xenophobia (INADI). Various state officials openly oppose inclusive language and even prohibit what they call "gender ideology", upholding a gender perspective that reinforces the patriarchal system.

      Rubber and plastic bullets, tear gas canisters, batons, and chemical irritants have become standard during police interventions. Many protesters have recently suffered eye injuries because of these weapons.

      What about police violence?

        Right after the inauguration of the new president, his government started attacking the right to protest. The new Minister for Security repealed a resolution that banned federal security officers from carrying firearms in demonstrations and obliged them to have visible identification at all times. This resolution was first voted in 2011 after dozens of people were killed during protests.

        We are also very concerned about the use of so-called “less lethal” weapons. Rubber and plastic bullets, tear gas canisters, batons, and chemical irritants have become standard during police interventions. Many protesters have recently suffered eye injuries and even lost vision because of these weapons. These practices are intended to produce a chilling effect on protesters and inflict lasting health and psychosocial damage on those affected and their communities.

        Your government has even warned that protesters might lose their right to receive state benefits. What do you think about this declaration?

          We are very concerned about it. The government has repeatedly announced: “Those who block the streets will not receive their social benefits.” They have even put up posters with this message in public transport stations in Buenos Aires. Although Congress has not approved this policy, it could de facto be applied.

          What can civil society organisations do to defend human rights in the country?

            The support from the international community is crucial for the human rights movement in Argentina right now. By maintaining dialogue and relaying information from local organisations, global civil society can pressure Argentina’s government and raise the political cost of implementing these repressive measures and brutal economic adjustment measures on the majorities.

            What is your hope for Argentina’s future?

            I hope that Argentina does not lose sight of its human rights history. The human rights movement is strong enough to resist and creative enough to propose solutions for a better and more just society. I am confident that the new generations will carry this work forward.

            Juliana Miranda
            Juliana Miranda, CELS International Working Group Coordinator