Far-Right President Javier Milei Axes Argentina’s Culture Ministry

Within his first 24 hours as president of Argentina, far-right leader Javier Milei signed his first Decree of Necessity and Urgency (DNU), dramatically reconfiguring the country’s federal government. Shortly after his swearing-in this past Sunday, December 10, the libertarian president signed a measure reducing the cabinet’s 18 departments to nine in an unsparing move to minimize public spending. The new decree will eradicate several federal agencies, including the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry for Women, Gender, and Diversity, while simultaneously establishing Milei’s vaguely named “Ministry of Human Capital.” 

The action took place in the White Room of the Casa Rosada during a private ceremony that was closed off to the press, according to La Nota. 

A self-described “anarcho-capitalist” often seen wielding a chainsaw symbolizing his desire to shred what he terms the current political “caste,” Milei has drawn international condemnation for his extreme proposed economic measures and for his denial of the deaths of more than 30,000 people during Argentina’s bloody dictatorship of 1976 to 1983. Milei has also threatened to repeal the nation’s hard-fought law guaranteeing legal and safe abortions and peddled election fraud conspiracy theories popular among the far right. He defeated Argentina’s center-left former economy minister Sergio Massa in a runoff election, his victory fueled by anger and resentment in a country where 40% of the population lives in poverty and inflation topped 140% this year.

Under the decree, the newly formed Ministry of Human Capital will absorb the responsibilities of agencies previously entirely dedicated to culture, education, labor, and social development. Other ministries that were cut include tourism and sports, environment and sustainable development, transportation, public works, and territorial development and habitat, which were all either absorbed by other departments or reassigned to cabinet members.

Since its establishment in 1973, Argentina’s Ministry of Culture has remained in a state of instability and has been frequently targeted by right-wing government leaders, such as former President Mauricio Macri, who demoted the department to a secretariat within the Ministry of Education in 2018 during his own reorganizing of the government cabinet. Macri’s order was undone the following year by President Alberto Fernández, who also introduced the Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity last October during a cabinet reshuffle that brought three women into minister positions.

On the 40th anniversary of Argentina’s return to democracy after the fall of its military dictatorship, the recent move by Milei marks the beginning of a sharp upheaval of progressive reforms established under the previous president, whom he blames for the country’s current economic crisis. The swift slashes to governmental ministries indicate the new leader’s commitment to follow through with his plans to radically “shock” the country’s system after winning the election last month.

Valentina Di Liscia contributed reporting.

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