By Marcos Schotgues|
Nov 20, 2023
Updated:Nov 21, 2023
“Good evening to all the good-willing Argentines, for today Argentina’s reconstruction begins,” Mr. Millei said in his first speech as the country’s future ruler, just as the counting of votes finished.
Considered a controversial figure, the libertarian won the country’s run-off elections by an 11-point margin—countering expectations—with 55.7 percent of votes.
Mr. Milei takes office on Dec. 10 with the challenging task of taming runaway inflation, a swollen bureaucratic state, and an establishment opposition used to dominating the nation’s politics.
The election win has shaken the political establishment not only in Argentina, but its shockwaves are being felt throughout Latin America.
Here are 5 things to know about Javier Milei and his plans as president.
1. The Anti-Communist ‘Ultra Libertarian’
Mr. Milei has drawn attention as an outsider from the beginning of his political career. He is further right in the political spectrum than any Argentinian leader with as much success in the ballots. He is an outspoken type tailor-made for the South American public—which has often earned him the “populist” label.
A former goalkeeper for the youth team Chacarita Juniors, a well known soccer-club, Mr. Milei has also been the singer of a Rolling Stones cover band.
An iconic moment of his time in politics is captured in a viral video, where he is dressed in a yellow-black suit with a mask and a cape singing an anti-money-printing parody of Giuseppe Verdi’s classical operatic piece La Traviata.
“A round of applause for Javier, General Ancap!” an aide can be heard yelling as the song ends. “Ancap” is short for “anarcho-capitalist,” reflecting the Argentinian’s proclaimed ideology.
Mr. Milei rose to the presidency after only two years as a congressman. He struck a chord with Argentina’s most passionate obsessions: music, humor, and soccer, while at the same time tackling hyper-inflation and political caste privilege ailing its people.
In 2018, he was recorded as the economist with the most interviews and minutes on air in Argentina—by a wide margin.
Mr. Milei won Sunday’s election by effectively conveying two issues to the public and “confronting the deep-rooted elites,” Roderick Navarro, a political analyst at the Miami-based media, PanAm Post, told the Epoch Times.
The first issue was to defeat “the political class that impoverished Argentina,” and the second is to “lead the country with a plan of free-market reforms,” Mr. Navarro said.
The reforms, he said, would “lay the groundwork for Argentina to become a world power in 35 years.”
“This made him a popular—not a populist—leader. It turned him into the man that put an end to an era of political decay in Argentina and started a new era of prosperity, safety, and decency,” Mr. Navarro said.
Mr. Milei’s push for free-market reforms is backed up by his background in economics. The Argentinian is the author of more than 50 academic papers and myriad books on the matter, and has two Master’s degrees in economics.
He taught for over 20 years as a university professor of macroeconomics, economics of growth, microeconomics and mathematics for economists.
Financial media reported that Bitcoin gained 3 percent, nearing an all-time high, as Mr. Milei won the election. He has repeatedly advocated for crypto currency and has criticized Argentina’s Central Bank.
2. The Economic Challenge
Mr. Milei’s focus on the economy has special appeal at the moment.
Argentina’s year on year inflation hit a staggering 142 percent during election week. Analysts at the Central Bank forecast it could get to 185 percent by the end of the year. Reserves of foreign currency are running low, and the peso currency has little promise to savers. The federal government has faced harsh criticism for overspending.
Mr. Milei has vowed to tackle these challenges by lessening state interference in the national economy and to potentially add the U.S. dollar as a currency.
Other plans include cutting the number of federal agencies and ministries.
A viral video shows him stripping off the names of government departments from a white board.
“The state is not the solution, the state is the problem,” Mr. Milei says, as he proposes to cut federal departments from 19 to eight.
The 11 dashed agencies include the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development; the Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity; and the Ministry of Education called by him “the Ministry of Indoctrination.”
“The challenge is good government,” Carlos Sanchez Berzaín, Bolivia’s former minister of defense and now head of the Interamerican Institute for Democracy, told the Epoch Times.
He says Mr. Milei will face not only economic hurdles, but strong opposition from “Castro-Chavism,” the region’s deeply-ingrained “21st century socialism” ideology.
“The failures of non-socialist presidents due to bad governance are several and repeated in Latin America. The change begins in Argentina but so does the conspiracy of Castro-Chavism. This result liquidates Kirchnerism. The defeat of 21st century socialism depends on Milei’s good [governance],” Mr. Sanchez Berzaín said.
“Kirchnerism” is a label associated with former leftist presidents Nestor and Cristina Kirchner, the socialist-leaning couple who have dominated Argentina’s politics over the past decades. Mrs. Kirchner is the current vice president.
3. The Ghosts of the Past
A saying in economics often attributed to Nobel Laureate Simon Kuznets goes: “Throughout history there have been only four kinds of economies in the world: advanced, developing, Japan, and Argentina.”
The country has had a unique economic history, swinging from fortune to tragedy.
4. An Antidote to Regional Socialism
“I’ll make deals with no communist. I’m a defender of freedom, peace and democracy. Communists just don’t fit there,” Mr. Milei told Tucker Carlson in a viral interview during his campaign.
“The Chinese don’t fit there. Putin doesn’t. Lula, let’s say, does not.”
It echoes much of his rhetoric over the past years.
“We want to be the moral beacon of the continent. We want to be the defenders of freedom, democracy, diversity, and peace. So we, from the administration, will not promote any kind of action with communists or socialists,” Mr. Milei said.
Reports of anxiety among South America’s leftist rulers were widespread as the elections neared. The region has seen a wave of socialist electoral victories leaving only three countries not ruled by left-wing administrations: Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Mr. Milei has called socialist leaders “trash” and “human excrement,” and has vowed to not promote closer ties with them, economic or otherwise.
Leading Brazilian newspaper O Estado de São Paulo published reports saying Brazil’s Lula da Silva administration saw a Milei win as apocalyptic and had been pushing against his campaign.
5. Congrats From Trump
As reports spread of Mr. Milei’s lead in the polls and of regional leftist anxiety over his presidential bid, the Argentinian often tweeted about them: “The red caste is shaking,” suggesting his opponents were frightened.
His rhetoric has been celebrated by right-wingers in the region and beyond as an epochal “turn-of-the-tide moment.”
Social media posts likening Mr. Milei to former President Donald Trump and former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro are widespread.
President Trump wrote on his Truth Social account that he is “very proud” of Mr. Milei, saying he’ll “Make Argentina Great Again.”
Mr. Bolsonaro posted on X a video of him talking to Mr. Milei by phone on the morning after the election.
“As I told you in a previous message, your work goes beyond Argentina. You represent a lot to us, we are pro-democracy, and we are lovers of freedom,” Mr. Bolsonaro said on Nov. 20.
“You mean a lot to Brazil, and rest assured, in all that is possible, I’ll be at your disposal. I’m certain God will enlighten you, He’ll protect you, and you’ll do a great administration, for the sake of our countries.”
Mr. Milei has invited Mr. Bolsonaro to his inauguration.
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