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Javier Milei takes Argentina to terra incognita

The student made the master proud. Sunday evening, the new elected president of Argentina, the self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalist and libertarian Javier Milei, unsurprisingly received congratulations from former American president Donald Trump, with whom he shares the same anger and the same radicalism .

“The whole world is watching. I am very proud of you. You will transform your country and restore Argentina to its past greatness,” wrote the billionaire on his social network, while tinting his declaration with a “Make Argentina Great Again”, which Milei made his own during his campaign, copying thus the name of the political movement of his American idol.

At 53, the far-right candidate and notorious demagogue finally brought Argentina into “ terra incognita », as political columnist Carlos Pagni wrote in the pages of the Buenos Aires daily The Nationand this, by winning a convincing victory in the second round of the presidential election over his opponent, the Minister of the Economy and Peronist, Sergio Massa.

“Everything but a surprise”

In a country in crisis, afflicted by inflation which is expected to reach 185% in 2023, according to the latest estimates from the central bank, the “anti-system” politician won 55.69% of the votes, ahead of the candidate by 11.39 points. liberals, in power for more than 20 years in Argentina.

A victory which is “anything but a surprise” comments in an interview with Duty, Ernesto Semán, author of several essays on populism and democracy in Argentina. It highlights “the limits of four decades of democratic governments on economic prosperity, but also the fact that Argentines did not have other options to express their frustration,” he said from the University of Bergen, in Norway, where he teaches.

“It’s a historic night for Argentina,” the new president proclaimed in front of thousands of supporters gathered in front of his campaign team’s headquarters in Buenos Aires. “We are grappling with monumental problems: inflation, stagnation, the absence of real jobs, insecurity, poverty and misery,” he listed, before promising to “put things back in order budgets and (to) resolve the problems of the central bank”, without “lukewarmness” or “half measures”.

“I am so happy, now I find hope,” commented Nicolas Paez, a young 34-year-old architect, quoted by Agence France-Presse. It was youth who tipped the scales. A change was necessary, and now I don’t want to leave the country. »

From theory to practice

The arrival at the highest summit of the State of Javier Milei, a media figure whose business is based as much on cookie-cutter formulas fearing neither excess nor vulgarity as on systematic attacks against “caste » policy which “is now afraid”, according to the new president, gives rise to hopes and fears in Argentina.

The new president has distinguished himself in recent months by the violence of his speeches calling to “dynamite” the central bank, which, he claims, is “stealing” from Argentines, to privatize the public pension system and to cut in public funds. In videos widely distributed during his campaign, he showed himself sometimes brandishing a running chainsaw to summarize his economic program and elsewhere removing the names of several ministries from a whiteboard – including those of Culture, Labor , the Environment, Social Diversity, Education (which he describes as indoctrination)… — to illustrate his plan to reform democratic institutions. “The politics of theft is over, long live fucking freedom,” he announced in the days before his victory.

Monday, in an interview on Radio Continental, the new president confirmed his intention to “dollarize” Argentina’s economy, a measure which nevertheless plunged the country into a major economic and social crisis at the end of the century. last. He promised that his privatization plans would be “far-reaching” and announced that it would probably take “18 to 24 months” to reduce inflation.

Last week, around a hundred economists around the world – including the Frenchman Thomas Piketty, the Indian Jayati Ghosh, the American Branko Milanović and the Colombian José Antonio Ocampo, among others – said they were “concerned” by the Javier Milei’s political program, which according to them risks being more harmful to Argentina than the reverse.

“Given the frequent financial crises and recurring bouts of skyrocketing inflation that Argentina experiences, a deep desire for economic stability is legitimate,” they wrote in an open letter published in the spanish daily newspaper El País. “However, while seemingly simple solutions may be attractive, they risk causing more damage in the short term, while reducing policy space in the long term,” they continue.

Javier Milei will take office on December 10, bringing with him his doubts about climate change – which is not caused by human activity, he claims –, his anti-feminist speeches and his questioning of the law authorizing abortion, which he promised to tackle, as a “cultural warrior” on a mission to shake up Argentine society. “There is a real awakening to the ideas of freedom,” the new president said Monday morning on Argentine radio. “Fortunately, hope conquered fear,” he added to comment on his victory.

“Of course, he will not be able to keep his promises,” assures Ernesto Semán, like several populists before him, including Jair Bolsonaro in neighboring Brazil – another idol of the new president –, who fueled an economic and social crisis in his country at the end of his unique and chaotic mandate.

“His victory shows that the progressive worldview has been dislodged by aggressive attacks against the old regime. It also confirms that there is no political cost to confronting democratic institutions. This victory could bring the country into a difficult period in terms of wealth redistribution and political stability, in addition to fueling greater state violence,” concludes Mr. Semán.

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