Argentina's President Milei
Argentina's President MileiReuters

Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei, is shuttering the country’s anti-discrimination office, eliciting rare criticism from Jewish leaders who have so far expressed optimism about the right-wing politician’s leadership.

“Discrimination in Argentina is a problem suffered by various groups. That is why the DAIA, together with other organizations, promoted the creation of INADI almost three decades ago,” the country’s umbrella Jewish group said in a statement. “The decision to close it violates the protection of the right to equality and peaceful coexistence of our society, which is an example worldwide.”

The move comes as Milei carries out an austerity plan that he says is essential to putting the country’s economy on the right track. The National Institute Against Discrimination, known by its Spanish acronym INADI, has 400 employees and receives 2,500 complaints a year, according to its most recent report.

“We will dismantle different institutes which are not useful or are big cashiers for politics or are simply places to generate political militant employment, starting with the definitive closure of the INADI,” Manuel Adorni said during a press conference Thursday at Argentina’s government headquarters, known as the Pink House.

The announcement follows Milei’s decision to consolidate 22 government ministries to nine as he warns Argentinians to prepare for difficult economic reforms. It also follows his criticism of INADI as engaging in “ideological persecution,” in keeping with the rejection of diversity initiatives by right-wing politicians in the United States and beyond. Milei is scheduled to speak at a major conservative political convention in Washington, D.C., this weekend.

Another Jewish organization offered a more optimistic take on the latest announcement. The Simon Wiesenthal Center announced that it agreed with the government assessment that INADI “was not fulfilling the functions for which it was created” but said it believed that battling discrimination would remain a government focus.

Core functions of the anti-discrimination office, which was created by law in 1995, will be absorbed by the justice department, government officials said later on Thursday. They also said the office had a backlog of 7,500 unresolved complaints.

“We hope that its closure will be for its effective reformulation,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center said about INADI. “But in no way does Argentina renounce the application of the Anti-Discrimination Law and the other legislation that allows it to be a highly evolved country in that fight, of which we are part.”

Argentina’s major Jewish groups have expressed only support for Milei since his election in November and inauguration last month. Their opinion has been shaped in part by Milei’s embrace of Judaism and vociferous support for Israel. During his recent emotional trip to Israel, his first abroad since being sworn in, he announced that Argentina will move its embassy to Jerusalem, echoing a move that the United States made during the Trump administration.