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ARGENTINA | 22-02-2024 15:47

Government to 'dismantle' INADI anti-discrimination watchdog, claims Adorni

Presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni declares that “pointless” National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism will be “dismantled,” but Justice Ministry announces only that its functions will be absorbed by its portfolio.

President Javier Milei's government said Thursday it would “dismantle” Argentina's national anti-discrimination watchdog as part of its drive to slim down the state, saying the institute served "no purpose."

Presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni announced in his daily press conference that the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI) would be “the first” of a number of “pointless” agencies that will be broken down.

"The decision was made to move forward with the dismantling of institutes that serve absolutely no purpose, such as INADI," said Adorni. “We will dismantle different institutes which are pointless or are big slush funds for politics or are simply places to generate militant employment.”

The organisation has offices across the country, employs 400 people, and fields some 2,500 complaints a year, according to its latest report. The majority of those complaints come from the workplace or educational field, and are linked to disability, sexual orientation or gender. 

The idea is to move forward with the “final shutdown” of anything “not bringing a benefit to Argentines,” said Milei’s chief spokesperson – that is, to dismantle different state institutes, whether by decree or otherwise, that the government deems to be superfluous.

“Bureaucracy sets certain limits to the decisions one intends to carry out and one of those limits comes in this case. We would love for the INADI to shut down today, but that can’t happen due to a timing issue,” the spokesperson emphasised.

Adorni said the decision fell under “the ideals of President Milei to reduce the state.”

“There are a myriad institutes President Milei wishes to shut down; the battle to reduce public expenditure is central in our government plan,” he stated.

However, it later emerged that Adorni was not telling quite the full story. Rather than shutting down INADI and its work entirely, the watchdog’s functions and personnel will be absorbed by the Justice Ministry.

"It is a priority of this Ministry to take care, in a very efficient way, of any person who suffers any kind of discrimination, xenophobia and/or racism," Justice Minister Mariano Cúneo Libarona said in a statement.

"We will respect and order everything concerning such an important right as non-discrimination, we have already elaborated a protocol of action and investigation, and the general education and training regime established by the norms,” he added.

"The qualified personnel working at INADI, who perform their work with responsibility and commitment, will be transferred to the Ministry, where they will work with order, seriousness and suitability," said Cúneo Libarona.


Outcry

News of the watchdog’s “dismantling” met with outcry from opposition lawmakers and rights campaigners.

Ana Fornaro, co-founder of Agencia Presentes – a regional media organisation specialising in gender, diversity and rights issues – said the decision "does not surprise us."

"This government has been especially cruel to the institutions that defend" diversity, she declared.

In the past, Milei has accused INADI of "ideological persecution" and wanting to "govern the way we speak."

The president, who describes himself as an "anarcho-capitalist" who is "above all for freedom," has said he is opposed to abortion and sex education, does not believe humans are responsible for climate change, and that there is no wage gap between men and women.

Among the many ministries he got rid of when taking office was the portfolio dealing with women, gender and diversity issues.

Since taking office in December, Milei has fired 30,000 state employees, halted new public works contracts, and cut generous state subsidies for transport and energy in a bid to curb spending.

The INADI, which was created in 1995 by a law passed by Congress, already falls under the umbrella of the Justice Ministry. 

It has been placed under trusteeship by the government, which appointed María de los Ángeles Quiroga as its temporary boss for the next six months via decree.


Bluff?

Diego Morales, director of litigation at the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) rights watchdog, said the decision to close INADI was part of the government's plan "aimed at eliminating or limiting the capacities of human rights protection bodies in Argentina." 

Lawmaker Germán Martínez, the head of the Peronist caucus in the lower house, was among the first to repudiate the decision, stating that the government "is on its way to being the most discriminatory, xenophobic and racist [administration] in democratic history."

The DAIA Jewish organisation also rejected the decision, saying it “goes against the protection of the right to equality and peaceful coexistence" of society.

However, libertarian lawmaker Ramiro Marra celebrated the news, describing INADI as a Kirchnerite organisation used to “persecute those who think differently."

Vitoria Donda, a former lawmaker who previously headed INADI between 2019 and 2022, described the move as a "bluff."

"Adorni announced the decision to dismantle the INADI and other institutes, about which he also does not give too many details,"

"Beyond this and the inconsistencies themselves – INADI’s [new] trustee was appointed yesterday – the institute's own workers are also very concerned,” she added.

Donda speculated that Adorni’s announcement was designed to spark controversy as “a sort of rehearsal to put on the table a strident issue that generates social discussion, in order not to deal with the real underlying issues that this government has not been attacking.”


– TIMES/AFP/NA

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