Argentina’s new president is Javier Milei, a Trump-like libertarian
Trump also congratulated Milei. “I am very proud of you,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform. “You will turn your country around and make Argentina great again!”
Voters in this country of 46 million wanted a big change from a government that sent the peso tumbling, inflation skyrocketing and more than 40 percent of the population into poverty. With Milei, Argentina leaps into the unknown – with a leader promising to break the whole system.
In his first speech as elected president, Milei told Argentines that “the model of decadence has come to an end. There is no turning back.”
“Enough of the poor caste power,” he said. “Today we are again embracing the model of freedom, becoming a world power again.” His supporters joined him in shouting: “Long live freedom, damn it!”
Milei will take office on December 10, the 40th anniversary of Argentina’s return to democracy after the fall of its military dictatorship.
With a chainsaw on the campaign trail, a frantic Milei vowed to cut public spending in a country heavily dependent on government subsidies. He promised to fund the economy, closed the central bank and cut the number of government ministries from 18 to eight. His campaign rallying cry was bringing down the country’s political “caste” – the Argentine version of Trump’s “drain the swamp”.
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Massa was the epitome of that ruling elite — “the king of the caste,” said political analyst Pablo Touzón. The career politician tried to distance himself from the leftist government of Alberto Fernández and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, heirs to the populist dynasty first launched by Juan and Eva “Evita” Perón in the 1940s. Together with a grassroots campaign of activists, Massa tried to raise fears about Milei’s leadership which they argued could threaten Argentina’s democracy and way of life.
But in the end, anger won over fear. For many Argentines, the greater danger was more of the same.
“We have nothing to lose,” said Tomás Limodio, a 36-year-old business owner who voted for Milei in Buenos Aires on Sunday. “We’ve had this type of government for so many years, and things are only getting worse. “
Acknowledging his defeat on Sunday night, Massa told supporters the results were “not what we hoped for” and marked the end of a political chapter in his life. At campaign headquarters, supporters rallied. A young woman burst into tears.
“There were two paths,” Massa said. “We chose the path of protecting the security system in the hands of the state… the path of protecting education and public health as core values. Argentines chose the other way.”
Milei’s landslide victory makes him the most voted president in a run since the return of democracy in Argentina. The results show that many of those who said they would vote empty handed, and did not feel represented by any candidate, chose Milei, said political analyst Mariel Fornoni. “Of course, people weren’t afraid to change,” she said.
Milei’s presidency will give him the longest right to power in Latin America’s third largest economy, and could have a major impact on the region and the world. In a continent dominated by leftist leaders, Milei could create tension with the governments he attacked, including a vital trade partner and neighbor Brazil. In an era of growing Chinese influence in Latin America, Milei could be the region’s most vocal antagonist to a country he calls an “assassin.”
Milei made a name for himself as a television pundit who insulted other guests, and has shown a tendency to fight with the news media. He has circulated conspiracy theories and made baseless allegations of electoral fraud. In presidential debates, he has questioned the large number of murders during the country’s Dirty War from 1976 to 1983.
He has labeled Pope Francis, an Argentine leftist, “evil”. Climate change, he says, is a “socialist lie.” He would hold a referendum to legalize the three-year-old law that banned abortion.
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Many Argentines chose to ignore Milei’s messages which made them uncomfortable. For some, a vote for the outside was reluctant but strategic.
“The thinking is good, maybe because Milei is crazy, that he will launch himself as a kamikaze” and make necessary reforms that previous leaders refused to make, for fear of kicked him out of power, said Touzón. “Let’s use the crazy person to make the reforms that the rational ones didn’t want to make.”
For 16 of the last 20 years, Argentina has been ruled by the powerful populist machine known as Peronism. The country’s leaders have left a once prosperous country – but often a volatile economy – in the worst shape in two decades.
“We live as if we could lose a second decade,” said economist Matías Surt.
For only the second time in its history, Argentina has seen 10 years without economic growth. In that decade, poverty rates rose from 28 percent to more than 40 percent. Now, for the first time ever, even formal workers in Argentina’s economy are below the poverty line. Inflation is close to 150 percent. The peso has fallen, prices change almost weekly, and Argentines have to carry large wads of cash around just to buy groceries.
With his viral TikTok videos and his outgoing personality, Milei gathered a generation of young voters who have received these frustrations for most of their lives. Today’s younger voters only know Argentina in economic decline. They have lived through the covid-19 pandemic, and they see the political left as the establishment, rather than the revolution it once was.
John Flores, 24, and his wife do not know if they will ever be able to buy their own home. Flores, a nursing student, relies on his wife’s income and occasional odd jobs as a weaver or janitor to pay the rent and support a child. Their money is worth less every day. Saving has become impossible.
“Massa wants to fix the problems he created himself,” said Flores. “We are tired, especially the youth.”
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The question is whether Milei will be able to fulfill his mandate with limited financial resources, no management experience and few political friends in the legislature. Even compared to Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s right-wing ex-president, “Argentina will have the biggest exodus of outsiders it has had in recent years,” said Touzón.
Milei will take office as the “weakest” president in the 40 years since the country’s return to democracy, Argentine political analyst Lucas Romero said. This is not only because he does not have a majority in Congress, but also because he owes at least part of his advantage to the former president, Mauricio Macri, who supported to Milei in the weeks before the vote the political support and credit he had before.
Its impact is expected to have a strong impact on Argentina’s economy in the coming days. His proposals for dollarization have sent Argentines rushing to lose their pesos, causing the currency’s value to plummet.
“We’re going to have a dark week,” said Damian Rodríguez, a 42-year-old seller who stopped posting his most expensive kitchen appliances for sale online this week. wait and see how prices would change after a possible Milei impact. .
Veronica Cerminaro, a 44-year-old public sector worker, worried that Milei’s presidency would leave her country in ruins. In Milei, she said, she saw an “anti-democratic” candidate who rejects the horrors of the military dictatorship and wants to take away her rights and the rights of her children.
“Along with all his other crazy ideas,” she said. “With that man, I don’t see a future for anyone. “
But for 32-year-old Jonathan Aguero, the future has been bleak for a long time now. The father of two who works in safety studies has felt shortchanged by the country’s economic problems all his life.
“I have three jobs, and it’s not enough,” he said, holding his six-month-old daughter after voting in a working-class neighborhood in Buenos Aires. “We have already seen what Peronism has done. We have to change.