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Argentina before Javier Milei's libertarian experiment


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The Conversation Spain

Juan Diego Molina Méndez

researcher from Institute for Culture and Society, University of Navarra

Rarely has a presidential election in Latin America attracted so much attention in the rest of the world, but the emergence of Javier Milei and his libertarian project has focused the attention of politicians and commentators worldwide.

Until recently, the image of the now Argentine president-elect had been defined by his histrionic appearances on television and his rallies where he emulated a rock star, as well as by his statements on the pope or on the rethinking of Argentina's trade relations. However, now that he has been elected as president, he will have to dialogue and perhaps lower his characteristic profile .

Since the good results obtained by Milei's project and his party, La Libertad Avanza, in the primary elections last August, great expectations began to build around the new outsider who, with a libertarian speech , offered a solution to the rampant inflation, corruption and the growth of crime in a country that still remembers that at the end of the 19th century it was the first economic power in the world.

The last 20 years have passed for Argentines between the Kirchnerist speech that came to power in the midst of the so-called left turn, during which leaders such as Hugo Chávez, Rafael Correa or Evo Morales were enthroned. With Alberto Fernandez and the former president and former first lady Cristina Fernandez, the last four years have meant a progressive deterioration of the socioeconomic status for Argentines.

Below the poverty line

agreement According to the latest report of INDEC, 40 % of Argentines currently live below the poverty line, and 6.8 % of households are below the indigence line. In spite of all this, the Minister of Economics of the current government, Sergio Massa, managed to make his way to the second round of the ballot -second round- and to obtain 44 % of the votes. For this he had the support of the state apparatus and Argentine Peronism, which defines the political identity of broad sectors of society that still remember the labor and social policies promoted by Juan Domingo Perón. Despite the country's Peronist tradition, voters have turned their backs on Massa's project and have turned to the Latin American anti-officialist current.

In ancient times, maps used to include the Latin phrase Hic sunt dracones - "you will find dragons"- to indicate the lands yet to be explored, and Argentina seems to be going precisely there. Although the speech majority in the international media has emphasized the risk of trusting Milei to redirect the country's course, it is necessary to remember that the other option represented the continuity of the policies that have destabilized Argentina in the last few years. The president-elect's promises have been labeled as radical, although it remains to be seen to what extent they are achievable.

Criticism of Pope Francis and China

Perhaps one of Milei's most striking moments in the media was when he called Pope Francis "envoy of the evil one" back in 2016. This has gained relevance again after Alberto Benegas Lynch, mentor of Milei's project , indicated in the closing act of the campaign for the first round of the elections that Argentina should break relations with the Vatican for considering that the pope is authoritarian, although this was later nuanced by the presidential candidate.

Likewise, Milei also indicated that as president of the nation he would not promote relations with China because it is a communist country, despite being the second largest trading partner country. After the results of the election, the Chinese government congratulated Milei and highlighted its willingness to "work with Argentina to continue the friendship".

Macri's important role

Javier Milei's victory should be understood not only as a response to the crisis the country is going through, but also as the triumph of the bet of former President Mauricio Macri, head of the coalition Juntos por el Cambio (JxC), for this second round.

After Patricia Bullrich came third in the first round of the elections, the liberal-conservative coalition gave its support to Milei's project , so much so that in his speech after Sunday's victory the president-elect thanked Macri, Bullrich and the JxC prosecutors for their support. The short journey of the political project of La Libertad Avanza has prevented it from having a deep and solid implantation in the territories, which is best seen when considering that it only has seven senators out of 72 and 40 deputies out of a total of 247 in the Chamber leave, so the support of Macri, Bullrich and their coalition is vital for the governability of Argentina.

The alarmism surrounding candidate has led many to label the president-elect as totalitarian or ultra-right, although these adjectives do not define the libertarianism that Milei advocates. Although during the electoral campaign he made striking and alarming statements, his reliance on the center right to govern Argentina invites us to think that his government will be more moderate than we might have thought.

This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original.

The Conversation