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Has the government become a dead cat?

Has the government become a dead cat?


Editorial from the Buenos Aires Herald

In British politics, a strategy known as dead cat has emerged in recent years.

As Boris Johnson wrote in 2013, when you lose an argument beyond hope, the dead cat is a way to distract your opponents. If you throw a dead cat on the table, you may not win, but you can be sure that people will talk about something else, because there is now a dead cat on the table.

The Milei government apparently tried its own strategy this week when its MPs introduced a bill that would ban abortion even in cases of rape, just two days after the omnibus bill suffered a calamitous defeat in the Lower House .

To recap: After the Lower House approved the entire bill last week, MPs began debating the various articles of the bill on Tuesday. But that evening things fell apart when it became clear that the government had not garnered enough support.

In an apparent rookie mistake, La Libertad Avanza (LLA) bloc leader Oscar Zago proposed sending the bill back to committees, not realizing that such a move would undo all previous progress. The omnibus bill was suddenly void, in accordance with the rules of the Lower House and the request of the government coalitions. At first, Zago and Interior Minister Guillermo Francos insisted in interviews that the bill still had widespread approval, only to later backtrack and acknowledge that everything was back to square one.

It is still unclear how much of what happened was due to inexperience, intransigence, or both, but this colossal mistake inevitably became a topic of discussion on radio, television and on social networks. What followed was an attempt by the government to exploit a tornado of its own making by going on the offensive.

While Milei was in Israel and liked posts on happened, saying it didn't really affect their plans. The argument is that any objection is irrelevant since Milei obtained 56% of the vote, without recognizing that this percentage is not a starting point but a fragile ceiling.

Provincial governors and opposition deputies were immediately targeted by a wave of insults for not having adhered to the government's demands. Milei called them traitors and the cut in transport subsidies for provinces was announced on Thursday, which will force governors to increase bus fares across the country amid a brutal economic crisis.

It is in this climate that six LLA deputies introduced a bill that would criminalize voluntary abortion in Argentina, reversing the historic 2020 Congressional decision to legalize this procedure. This decision was enough to generate a huge backlash that dominated public opinion, largely overshadowing the fiasco of the omnibus bill, despite the improbability of its success. Memories of the hard battle to obtain this fundamental right, and the human cost it took, are still painfully fresh.

However, with this government there are divisions, even in powerlessness. MP Lilia Lemoine publicly denied signing the bill on Wednesday, although her name appears on it, while Milei and presidential spokesperson Manuel Adorni said it was not a government initiative at all. government. It turned out that the MP who introduced the bill, Roco Bonacci, did not realize that she had to seek permission first. Bonacci has since admitted on it was his own initiative.

As with the failure of the omnibus bill, what was really behind the anti-abortion bill that fell flat despite alarms being raised is an open question. This could be a case of incompetence or another symptom of the LLA's reliance on alternative narratives widely disseminated via social media. Either way, it looks like the strange dead cat metaphor might come in handy in years to come.




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