President Javier Milei’s government has ordered a number of social organisations and trade union groups to stump up as much as 56 million pesos (US$66,000) to pay for security operations organised to police two demonstrations on December 22 and 27, soon after the libertarian leader took office.
"We received the summons to pay a sum of millions of pesos, as did other social and trade union organisations," said the Libres del Sur social organisation, one of those affected, in a statement released on Friday.
It said the bill had been sent by the National Security Ministry the previous day and demands payment within 10 working days.
"These penalties are acts of persecution and intimidation by the government of Javier Milei," denounced the Central de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras de la Argentina Autónoma (CTAA) labour group in another statement.
Both organisations were fined for two separate demonstrations: the first took place on December 22 in the centre of Buenos Aires at the Plaza de Mayo, where dozens of people mobilised to denounce the interruption of the food assistance that the state periodically provides to such groups.
The second demonstration, which brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets, took place on December 27, when a number of Argentina's leading trade union confederations marched to the Palacio de Tribunales to demand that the courts block Milei’s sweeping emergency decree, which seeks to made a series of amendments to legislation, including labour rules and regulations.
At least a dozen social and trade union organisations have received letters from the Security Ministry, headed by Patricia Bullrich, claiming money to cover the operational costs "that were used to stop the illegitimate acts in order to maintain public order."
Telegrams have been sent to the Camioneros (Truckers’ Union), Unión Obrera Metalúrgica (Metal Workers' Union, UOM), Unión Obrera de la Construcción (Construction Workers' Union, UOCRA), Central de Trabajadores Argentinos (Argentine Workers' Central, CTA), Asociación de Trabajadores del Estado (State Workers' Association) and the Unión de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras de la Economía Popular (Union of Workers of the Popular Economy, UTEP), among others.
Since taking office on December 10, Bullrich has repeatedly warned demonstrators that "whoever does it, pays" – a slogan outlining a tough policy against insecurity and protesters who break the law by blocking traffic.
The minister has introduced new rules to govern protests, known as an "anti-picket protocol," which permits the use of necessary force to ensure that the traffic is not blocked by demonstrators or objects.
Bullrich has assured that she will "send the bill to the organisations or individuals responsible" for "all the costs linked to the security operations", and determined that "the state will not pay for the use of security force.”