Argentines on Sunday chose Javier Milei, a far-right libertarian who has drawn comparisons to Donald J. Trump, as their next president, a shift to the right for a nation struggling under an economic crisis and a sign of the global’s enduring strength. extreme right.
Milei, 53, an economist and former TV personality with little political experience, has burst onto Argentina’s traditionally closed political scene with a brash style, embracing conspiracy theories and a series of extreme proposals that he says are necessary to turn around a broken situation. economy and government.
Milei won 56% of the vote, with 95% of ballots counted, defeating Argentina’s center-left Economy Minister Sergio Massa, who had 44%. Massa, 51, admitted defeat even before the official results were published.
Milei has pledged to cut spending and taxes, close Argentina’s central bank and replace the national currency with the U.S. dollar. He also proposed banning abortion, loosening gun regulations and only considering countries that want to “fight against socialism“as allies of Argentina, often naming the United States and Israel as examples.
In his victory speech, he attacked the political “caste” that, in his opinion, has enriched itself at the expense of the average Argentine, saying that “today is the end of Argentine decadence.” But he also offered an olive branch.
“I want to say to all Argentines, to all political leaders and to all those who want to join the new Argentina: you will be welcome,” he said.
Milei’s election is a victory for the global far-right movement that gained strength with the election of Trump and similar politicians, including Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, even as it has faltered with electoral losses in recent years. Bolsonaro and the Spanish far-right party Vox cheered for Milei; former Fox News host Tucker Carlson traveled to Argentina to interview him; and billionaire Elon Musk on Sunday She said after Milei’s victory that “prosperity is in sight for Argentina”.
Mr. Trump congratulated Mr. Milei. “I’m very proud of you,” he said in an online post. “You will transform your country and truly make Argentina great again!”
However, some political analysts say Milei’s rise reflects many Argentines’ desperation for change rather than support for his ideology.
Some voters share his extreme opinions, “but there are others who voted for him because they see in Milei a way to express their frustration in the face of an economic and political reality that has been bad for them for a long time”, he said. said Carlos. Pagni, history professor and political columnist at La Nación, one of Argentina’s largest newspapers.
“They don’t look at Milei’s ideology,” he said. “They see that Milei is angry and that Milei is suggesting a break.”
Milei has embraced comparisons to Trump and Bolsonaro. He has clear differences with the other two politicians, including his strong adherence to a libertarian ideology that has led him to support, in theory, policies such as open immigration and drug decriminalization. But Milei’s political style resembles theirs in many ways. I have attacks hard his critics and the news media, calls the scientific consensus on climate change a socialist conspiracy, claims that a dark cabal controls the country and has even an unruly hairstyle has become an online meme.
For many observers, the most troubling parallel was Milei’s pre-emptive accusations of voter fraud. He has openly questioned the results of the 2020 U.S. election and the 2022 Brazilian election, and for months has claimed, with little evidence, that Argentina’s election was rigged against him. He warned that if he lost on Sunday, it might be because the vote had been stolen. After signs that he would win emerged Sunday, Milei’s campaign told reporters that the election had been clean.
Milei also downplayed the atrocities of Argentina’s bloody military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983, calling them “excesses” as part of a “war” against the left. During a national debate you said that the number of people killed under the dictatorship was far lower than widely accepted estimates of as many as 30,000 people.
That rhetoric, combined with his warnings of rigged elections, has raised broad concerns in Argentina about its potential effect on national democracy. Before the vote, more than 20 prominent Argentines registered and released a video that promotes democratic values.
Milei will now face a major challenge that virtually no other Argentine president has been able to solve in decades: Argentina’s economy.
Failed economic policies have long left Argentina with one of the world’s most perennially unstable economies, yet even by its standards, the nation of 46 million is in one of its worst crises.
Annual inflation has risen above 140% – the third highest rate in the world – more than two in five Argentines now live in poverty and the value of Argentina’s currency has collapsed. In April 2020, at the start of the pandemic, $1 bought 80 pesos, using an unofficial rate based on the market’s valuation of the currency. This week, almost 1,000 pesos were purchased with 1 dollar.
Milei argued that the solution is a drastic break with old policies. His campaign centered on promises to “blow up” the central bank anddollarize the economy, illustrated by him destroying miniature versions of the bank and holding up giant $100 bills with his face on them.
His other campaign prop was a chainsaw that he waved at rallies. The saw represented the deep cuts she plans to make in government, including tax cuts; sharp regulations; privatize state industries; reduce the number of federal ministries from 18 to eight; move public education to a voucher system and public health care to an insurance system; and cut federal spending by up to 15% of Argentina’s gross domestic product. He recently softened some proposals after the backlash.
Economists and political analysts have said Milei lacks the political support and economic conditions to bring about such radical change. His nascent Liberty Advances party holds just seven of the 72 seats in Argentina’s Senate and 38 of 257 in the Chamber. Milei was elected to the lower house of the Argentine Congress in 2021 and his seat will now go to another member of his party.
However, for many Argentines, Milei will represent a welcome break from Peronism, the political movement that has held the presidency for 16 of the last 20 years, installing mostly left-wing policies in that time that have dragged the country from boom to bust.
“I want a future,” Dana Durante, 22, told a personal trainer at a street party in central Buenos Aires, where people chanted “freedom” and waved Argentine flags. He said he was considering leaving the country if Milei lost.
“This is a revolution,” he said. “For a different country. For a better Argentina”.
Many voters, after recent economic decline and a series of corruption scandals, were desperate for any change, despite doubts they had about Milei’s eccentric personality and combative temperament.
“I can’t keep voting for corruption,” said Silvana Cavalleri, 58, a real estate agent, after reluctantly voting for Milei. “I hope Milei is at least less corrupt. “Not that I think she isn’t at all.”
Milei weathered criticism and questions about a series of unusual behaviors during the campaign, including his harsh attacks on the pope, his clashes with Taylor Swift fans, his claims to be a tantric sex guru, his dressing up as libertarian superhero and his close relationship with his Mastiff dogs who are named after conservative economists – and are also all clones.
Some voters have been disappointed by his past outbursts and extreme comments during years of work as a pundit and television personality. In a clip from years earlier This was widely shared during the campaign, Milei claims that the government is corrupt and steals from average Argentines.
“The state is a pedophile in a kindergarten,” he said, “with children chained and doused in Vaseline.”
Milei’s vice president, Victoria Villarruel, was also criticized for her comments, including some defending the dictatorship. Ms. Villarruel, who comes from an Argentine military family, runs an organization that recognizes victims of attacks carried out by left-wing guerrillas before the military took over.
She and Mr. Milei claimed that 8,000 people disappeared during the dictatorship, despite documents showing that the Argentine military also believed 22,000 people were missing just two years later.
After voting at a school on Sunday, Ms. Villarruel criticized a nearby mural dedicated to the 30,000 people believed to have been killed during the dictatorship. “Doing graffiti for the 30,000 is like going to a cemetery and painting Barney Bear,” she said, referring to a cartoon character.
Milei will be sworn in as president on December 10, the 40th anniversary of the inauguration of the first democratically elected president since the fall of the military dictatorship.
Natalie Alcoba AND Lucia Cholakian Herrera contributed to the reporting.