Javier Milei, sworn enemy of ‘the caste’, next Argentine president?

Javier Milei, sworn enemy of 'the caste', next Argentine president?

A newcomer to Argentine politics, this 42-year-old economist is running in the upcoming presidential elections with an ultra-liberal program, which includes the dollarization of the economy. Against the traditional parties, he climbs in the polls.

By the RFI correspondent in Buenos Aires

Three years ago, invited to television programs for his outbursts, he was almost considered a buffoon. Today, all the polls place him in the second round of the presidential elections in November 2023 and some even give him a chance of winning. With brown hair that tends to red, always a bit tousled, but now more groomed, and piercing blue eyes, Javier Milei, leader of the La Libertad avanza party, which he created in 2021, is more than just a rising political star. Argentina.

This outsider The 42-year-old, elected deputy for Buenos Aires in November 2021, is in the process of blowing up a system that until now has worked on the Peronism/anti-Peronism antinomy and the confrontation of two great coalitions, in this case, according to its latest names, Frente de Todos, which brings together the different Peronist currents) and Juntos por el Cambio, an alliance dominated by a center-right formation, Pro, but which owes its territorial roots to the old radical party, center, if not center-left.

The first coalition has been in power since 2019, with Alberto Fernández as president and former president Cristina Kirchner as vice president. Fernández succeeded Mauricio Macri, founder of Pro, who won the presidency at the head of the second coalition, then called Cambiemos. But for Milei, everything doesn’t matter: all these politicians, whatever their side, are members of a “caste” far removed from the people that he denounces, reaping resounding applause in a society marked by disappointment or rejection of its ruling class.

An “anarcho-liberal” economist

Populism? Javier Milei draws on an antipolitical sentiment that is not exclusive to Argentina, but that is particularly strong in this country, in permanent crisis due to the failures of governments that have been in power for decades. But his speech is not limited to denouncing the “caste”.

This economist, who defines himself as “anarcho-liberal”, presents himself as a libertarian, a follower of the Austrian school of Friedrich Hayek (Nobel Prize in Economics 1974), also insists against the omnipresence of the State and its interference in the lives of citizens, finding It also echoes in a country where the tax burden (taxes + social charges) is one of the highest in the world, equivalent to that of France or Sweden, but with much lower performance in terms of quality of public services. It is a reality that cannot be denied, and Milei’s promise to reduce public spending, even eliminating a series of social benefits, arouses more and more reactions, even among the most disadvantaged, who are in principle the first beneficiaries of the aid in question.

And when Milei insists that this rampant public spending is financed by money printing, that is, an uncontrolled monetary issue, ordered by the Government and executed by the theoretically independent Central Bank, leading to an almost daily depreciation of the peso, the national currency, and therefore accelerating inflation, to the point of reaching more than 100% annually, is heard. Many Argentines are willing to adhere to the solutions proposed by the libertarian presidential candidate to remedy this situation that affects them in their daily lives.

Milei’s solution? The abolition of the Central Bank and dollarization, that is, the replacement of the peso by the US dollar as legal tender in Argentina. It is true that the dollar, the reference currency for most international transactions, but also for the purchase of real estate, is becoming the reference currency for rentals and other transactions in which a significant component of the price is expressed in this currency, given the devaluation of the peso.

In favor of the legalization of drugs, but against abortion

Dollarization has some advantages, as already mentioned. But most politicians reject it in the name of the loss of national sovereignty, not without pointing out, along with many economists, the corset that it represents for the countries that have adopted it, such as Panama or Ecuador, since it prohibits any independent monetary policy. . In any case, it is liked by many Argentines, who have long since adopted the dollar as a reserve and savings currency.

An anti-class and ultra-liberal politician in economics, Javier Milei is also a curious character, who sometimes blurs the lines, but continues to show clear signs of his ideological orientations. He is in favor of the legalization of drugs, but is opposed to abortion, and is in favor of creating a market for the sale of organs. He is also in favor of the free possession of weapons by citizens as a response to the increase in crime.

Populist Milei? Probably. Far right? Many think so. But given his growing popularity as measured by the polls, few in the mainline parties oppose him. In Together for Change, the main current opposition, where two candidates will openly face each other in the August primaries, one, Patricia Bullrich, considered more to the right, says she has points of contact with Milei; while the other, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, supposedly more centrist, is willing to debate with him, but rejects a possible dollarization.

As for the Frente de Todos, the ruling Peronist coalition, its potential candidates are very cautious about Milei. Cristina Kirchner, an undeclared candidate, rejects him ideologically, but nothing more; Alberto Fernández, who has renounced his candidacy, sees him as a danger to democracy; Sergio Massa, Economy Minister and probable candidate, does not mention it.

The August primaries (mandatory) will give a first verdict. According to polls, the opposition candidate should lead in the first round of the presidential elections, but in a highly contested second round, Javier Milei would prevail over the representative of the current presidential majority. And, if these forecasts are confirmed, the duel in the second round, without the presence of a Peronist (a first since the return of democracy in 1983), would see a non-Peronist centrist oppose Javier Milei. It remains to be seen (there are still no surveys on the matter) how the Peronist electorate would react in this hypothesis. Will they abstain? A Republican vote, like Emmanuel Macron against Le Pen? Or open? Milei is popular in poor neighborhoods and among the youth.

With inflation exceeding 100% per year, a central bank that has bled dry and permanent political uncertainty, Argentina lives on the brink of a crisis that could lead to a social outbreak at any time between now and the November elections. But, since the worst is never a certainty, the hypothesis of the presence of Javier Milei in the second round is very probable. And, thereafter, “Milei Presidente!” it would become more than just a catchphrase.

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Written by Editor TLN

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