Controversial and eccentric Argentine economist rises in polls for the presidential elections

Controversial and eccentric Argentine economist rises in polls for the presidential elections

The presenter welcomes the “future president” of Argentina. The audience begins to scream and many climb onto the seats to capture with their mobile phones the man with the strange hairstyle who makes his way through a sea of ​​admirers who want to touch him. In the background, “Let’s go for glory” sounds at full volume.

Javier Milei bursts like a storm into one of the conference rooms at the Buenos Aires Book Fair to give a talk about his latest work “The End of Inflation”, a problem that torments Argentines.

But more than an economist or a politician, he looks like a rock star dressed in a suit and tie.

When he arrives on stage, the dark hair of the national deputy and candidate for the far-right Libertad Avanza looks even more rowdy. He is exhausted, but he flails his arms and harangues his followers until they all join in one cry: “The Breed is afraid, is afraid, the Breed is afraid.”

The “caste” is the Argentine political class that the deputy considers corrupt, incapable and full of privileges.

Milei plans to defeat her in the October elections with her aggressive speech and a program of ultra-conservative proposals that is in tune with a growing number of supporters angry with politicians who have not been able to tame inflation, poverty and insecurity.

To come to power, Milei, 52, defends the use of weapons by the population, the immediate deportation of foreigners who commit crimes, and the elimination of abortion and comprehensive sexual education in schools, considering them “part of the post-Marxist agenda.” ” and a direct attack on the family.

It also proposes a drastic cut in state spending and, as a controversial formula to combat inflation, the elimination of the Central Bank and the Argentine peso to make room for a free competition of currencies in which the dollar eventually ends up prevailing.

“Why do you show so much fear? More than fear, they look terrified”, Milei responds when the government and the main opposition force describe her irruption on the political scene as a firework doomed to go out.

Milei went from having 15% support at the beginning of the year to having 23%. Meanwhile, the pro-government Frente de Todos is stuck at 28% and the opposition coalition Together for Change has between 28% and 29%, Roberto Bacman, director of the Center for Public Opinion Studies, told the AP.

The analyst said that Milei, with a 52% negative image and a 43% positive one, has more acceptance than pro-government and opposition leaders in a scenario in which no politician enjoys greater approval than disapproval.

“A character has appeared, a madman, and the media does everything possible to show him in a preponderant place in politics,” President Alberto Fernández recently said.

The president, who will not compete for reelection in the elections in which Peronism is risking its permanence in power, is not the only one who has thrown his darts against Milei.

The vice president and former governor Cristina Fernández (2007-2015), who does not aspire to a position either but will exert her indisputable influence in the definition of the Peronist candidacy, has described him as a “mamarracho” and arrogant.

However, more and more young people consider that Milei is the only one capable of ensuring their dreams.

“I would like to have a family, have my own house, apply what I study and be able to stay in Argentina because many acquaintances are leaving,” Delfina Ezeiza, a Libertad Avanza militant, told AP. “My almost 20 years I lived with inflation and Milei is the hope for our growth.”

Argentina registered in April an increase in the cost of living of 8.4% and a year-on-year rate of 108.8%. The libertarian maintains that dollarization would eradicate the devaluation of the peso and the skyrocketing of prices.

“The peso is the currency issued by the Argentinian (Argentine) politician, so it cannot even be worth excrement. Defending the peso is defending the fraud of politics”, says Milei.

This ultra-liberal who doesn’t comb his hair and lives with several mastiffs that he refers to as “the boys”, gained notoriety in the media as a histrionic defender of the market economy. From there he went into politics when he won a seat as a deputy in 2021.

AP has tried several times without success to have a chat with the economist.

His candidate for vice president is Deputy Victoria Villarruel, whom he considers capable of combating insecurity, another concern of Argentines. Villarruel is the founder of a center that defends the military accused of repression during the last dictatorship from 1976 to 1983.

And in one of her latest coups, Milei proposed that the popular cumbia singer David Adrián Martínez, better known as “El Dipy”, be the candidate for mayor of her space in the populous municipality of La Matanza, a stronghold of Peronism.

Milei says that her “boss” is her sister Karina, who organizes her agenda and proselytizing events.

The deputy has thousands of cyber followers who promote his candidacy and attack his opponents on social networks. Some of his former allies have denounced that they have been the target of harassment, something that those close to the economist deny.

While criticism rages against her, Milei is gaining followers like other figures who came to power captivating those disillusioned with traditional politics such as Donald Trump in the United States and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.

“It is a phenomenon that arises from the disappointment of the people,” Bacman said. “Seven out of 10 Argentines say they have difficulties making ends meet. It is not enough to have a job and the salaries are very low”.

The scenario is a breeding ground for a new politician who publicly raffles the salary he receives as a national deputy and launches ideas that attract the most frustrated, such as reforms “against the political corporation” and his so-called “chainsaw” plan to cut once with corrupt politicians.

But many consider Milei an “impromptu” who defends proposals that are difficult to implement such as dollarization and for others he is directly unbalanced and they feel terrified when they hear his proposal in favor of the free sale of organs and his arguments to eliminate sex education.

“It has to do with the destruction of the family and it also has to do with the whole discussion of environmentalism. There other problems appear, exterminating the population to the point of eliminating human beings”, says the economist.

The electoral uncertainty scenario benefits him: most parties have several candidates and will define their candidates in open and mandatory primaries to be held in August. Milei is so far the only candidate from his party.

The economist also steals voters from the two large political coalitions: most of them come from Together for Change, which has former President Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) among its referents and who feel disappointed because in his term the Poverty and inflation increased and the country returned to borrowing from the International Monetary Fund.

Meanwhile, young Peronists from the Frente de Todos have begun to see him sympathetically in a context of lack of job opportunities.

He makes fun of both forces, which he calls “Together for the position” and “Front of jets”, and takes advantage of the internal fights that both coalitions are going through to settle the figure that will compete for the presidency.

“Milei is a new phenomenon in politics that is difficult to predict and it occurs when, in addition to the economic crisis, there is a political crisis… There is a vacuum and anything can happen,” said Mariel Fornoni, from the Management & Fit consultancy.

According to Fornoni, Milei’s opponents feel confused because they are not used to this type of rival.

Until now, Milei’s popularity has not translated into votes for her allies in elections held in different provinces, where she lacks territorial leadership.

But analysts believe that in the unpredictable Argentina that is not an impediment for him to be able to position himself in an eventual second round of elections and head straight for the goal: to sit in the president’s chair in December.

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