Argentine President Javier Milei put into motion a sweeping decree of economic reforms that includes deregulations and an end to limits on exports as he begins to combat the country’s severe economic crisis.
"This is only the first step," the self-described anarcho-capitalist whose sensational rhetoric drew comparisons to former U.S. President Donald Trump said in a televised address on Wednesday. "The objective is to return freedom and autonomy to individuals and start dismantling the enormous amount of regulations that have impeded, hindered and stopped economic growth."
Milei was sworn into office on Dec. 10, and during his inaugural address to supporters, he blamed the outgoing lawmakers for putting Argentina on a path toward hyperinflation, saying the political class "has ruined our lives."
Argentina has South America’s second-largest economy, but is suffering 143% annual inflation, which caused the country’s currency to plummet.
The country also has a trade deficit of $43 billion as well as $45 billion in debt to the International Monetary Fund, with $10.6 billion due to private and multilateral creditors by April.
On Thursday, Milei signed a decree outlining his plan to address the crisis.
Milei’s plans included the privatization of state-owned companies, though he did not name the specific firms, Reuters reported. He previously said he favors the privatization of state-owned oil company YPF.
His government has devalued the local peso currency by over 50% since taking office, and Milei said he has to hike taxes on Argentina’s grain exports, which are a key source of the global supply for processed soybeans, corn and wheat.
Milei’s push for higher taxes is intended to raise revenue so other levies could be lowered was met with criticism last week by farm groups fearing the move would hurt the industry.
Thousands hit the streets of Buenos Aires on Wednesday to protest Milei’s and the government’s plans. The protests were led by representatives of unemployed citizens, who demanded more support for the poor.
Milei won the presidency on Nov. 19, amid a nationwide wave of deep discontent and rising poverty.
On the campaign trail, Milei, with his wild hair and inflammatory rhetoric, pledged economic shock therapy and to slash the size of the state. He’s also indicated he would move the Argentine embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – paralleling another move by the Trump administration.
Milei accused his opponent, Economy Minister Sergio Massa of the Peronist party and his allies of running a "campaign of fear" and he walked back some of his most controversial proposals, such as loosening gun control. In his final campaign ad, Milei looks at the camera and assures voters he has no plans to privatize education or health care.
Milei's rhetoric resonated widely with Argentines angered by their struggle to make ends meet. The election forced many to decide which of the two they considered to be the least bad choice.
Reuters contributed to this report.