Javier Milei, the outsider libertarian candidate with radical solutions to Argentina’s economic crisis, has just won Sunday’s presidential runoff against Economy Minister Sergio Massa.
In a surprise outcome, Massa conceded in a speech to supporters in Buenos Aires on Sunday even before the official results were released, saying he called Milei to congratulate him on his victory.
Javier Milei, a 53-year-old far-right economist and former television pundit with no governing experience, claimed nearly 56 percent of the vote, with more than 80 percent of votes tallied. It was a stunning upset over Sergio Massa, the center-left economy minister who has struggled to resolve the country’s worst economic crisis in two decades.
Voters in this nation of 46 million demanded a drastic change from a government that has sent the peso tumbling, inflation skyrocketing, and more than 40 percent of the population into poverty. And with Milei, Argentina takes a leap into the unknown, with a leader promising to shatter the entire system, which the locals now correctly realise is broken.
Milei, who was interviewed by Tucker Carlson two months ago, has promised to fix Argentina’s perennial economic problems by making drastic budget cuts, replacing the battered peso with the US dollar and shutting down the central bank. He will take office on Dec. 10.
Ep. 24 Argentina’s next president could be Javier Milei. Who is he? We traveled to Buenos Aires to speak with him and find out. pic.twitter.com/4WwTZYoWHs— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) September 14, 2023
Massa, from the ruling Peronist coalition, placed first in October’s first round, a remarkable comeback after losing a primary election two months previously. But the dire state of Argentina’s economy, plagued by 143% hyperinflation and a looming recession, posed a challenge too far for his presidential bid.
“Argentines chose another path,” Massa said in a speech to supporters. Polls before the vote showed Milei with a slight edge over his rival.
For those unfamiliar with Milei’s unique style, the following clip should be rather informative:
THE JAVIER MILEI MUSICAL IS GONNA BE WAY MORE FIRE THAN EVITA. pic.twitter.com/OHxQwBhXVW— INVESTMENT HULK (@INVESTMENTSHULK) August 18, 2023
Commenting on Milei’s victory, Elon Musk predicted that “Prosperity is ahead for Argentina.”
Holy sh*t. Argentina just elected Javier Milei as their next president.— End Wokeness (@EndWokeness) November 19, 2023
History has been made today. pic.twitter.com/YMBlzWPIl6
A Milei presidency will have profound implications for not only the third-largest economy in Latin America but also the region and the world. In a continent dominated by leftist leaders, Milei could create tensions with governments he has attacked, including his crucial trading partner and neighbour Brazil. In an era of growing Chinese influence in Latin America, Milei could become the region’s most vocal antagonist to a country he once called “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. In presidential debates, he has cast doubt on the widely accepted tally of murders during the country’s Dirty War from 1976 to 1983.
He has branded Argentine Pope Francis an “evil” leftist, called climate change a “socialist lie,” and said he would hold a referendum to undo the three-year-old law that legalised abortion.
Wielding chain saws on the campaign trail, the wild-haired Milei vowed to slash public spending in a country heavily dependent on government subsidies. He pledged to dollarize the economy, shut down the central bank and cut the number of government ministries from 18 to eight. His rallying campaign cry was a takedown of the country’s political “caste” — an Argentine version of Trump’s “drain the swamp.”
Massa was emblematic of that ruling elite — “the king of the caste,” said political analyst Pablo Touzón. The career politician attempted to distance himself from the leftist government of Alberto Fernández and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the heirs to the populist dynasty first launched by Juan and Eva “Evita” Peron in the 1940s. Along with a grassroots campaign of activists, Massa sought to stoke fear over a Milei presidency, which they argued could threaten Argentina’s democracy and way of life.
But ultimately, anger won over fear. For many Argentines, the bigger risk was more of the same.
“We don’t have anything 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.”
Argentinian Donald Trump, Javier Milei.— I Meme Therefore I Am 🇺🇸 (@ImMeme0) November 19, 2023
Today is a great for Argentinians! pic.twitter.com/aG5yaAPTsc