Trump and Bolsonaro salute Javier Milei as far-right rejoices around the world | Argentina


‘El Loco’ wins landslide victory in Argentina, which experts say shows depth of frustration with Peronist status quo

Mon, November 20, 2023 at 12:23 p.m. EST

Luminaries of the global far right are delighted by Javier Milei’s landslide election victory in Argentina, which experts say will make Buenos Aires a new playground for the populist radical right.

Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro led the celebrations after their Argentinian ally beat his rival, Peronist Finance Minister Sergio Massa, by nearly 3 million votes in Sunday’s presidential election. The former US president predicted Milei would “truly make Argentina great again”, while the ex-Brazil president applauded a victory for “honesty, progress and freedom”. Bolsonarista and Mileista activists predicted that Milei’s victory would be the first in a trio of right-wing conquests that would see Trump and Bolsonaro return to power in 2024 and 2026.

On Monday, in his first interview after the victory, Milei announced that he would visit the United States and Israel – where he promised to move the Argentine embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – before taking the oath of office on the 10 December, alongside his ultra-conservative vice-president. President-elect Victoria Villarruel.

Bolsonaro announced he would attend Milei’s inauguration in Buenos Aires and released footage of a video call with the Argentine president-elect. “I’m really happy,” Bolsonaro told the radical libertarian economist. “You have a big job ahead of you… and it’s a job that goes beyond Argentina,” added the former Brazilian leader. “Gracias!” » Milei replied.

Unlike Bolsonaro, a professional politician who cast himself as a protest outsider to win power in 2018, Milei is a true newcomer to the world of politics. Born in Buenos Aires in 1970, he played in a Rolling Stones cover band and rose to prominence as a foul-mouthed economic pundit on Argentine television before being elected to congress in 2021 for his libertarian party Libertad Avanza (Freedom advances). Milei’s changing personality, on-screen expletives and Britpop-style hairstyle cemented his reputation as “El Loco” (The Fool).

From Bogotá and Santiago to Lisbon and Madrid, other ultra-conservative figures rejoiced in Milei’s landslide victory over the centrist Massa, by 14.47 million votes to 11.51 million.

André Ventura, the leader of the Portuguese far-right party Chega! (Enough!), celebrated Milei’s “struggle to defend society” and Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Italian far-right League, sent his congratulations. Santiago Abascal, the leader of Spain’s far-right Vox party, said Milei had opened “a path of future and hope… for Argentines and all of Latin America.”

Hungarian President Katalin Novák congratulated Milei on her “great victory”.

In South America, Chilean ultraconservative politician José Antonio Kast congratulated Milei on his “resounding triumph”, writing: “Argentina’s reconstruction begins now.”

Colombian Senator María Fernanda Cabal called Milei’s victory a victory for “reason, common sense (and) the hope of a renaissance for Argentina.” “Once again, Latin America’s devastating left has been defeated.”

Sergio Moro, the Brazilian senator who served as Jair Bolsonaro’s justice minister, tweeted: “Argentina has won two World Cups in a row. »

Ariel Goldstein, an Argentine academic who studies Latin America’s populist right, said he expected Buenos Aires to become a meeting place for members of the global far right and host an edition of the Forum of Madrid, a right-wing “anti-communist” summit founded in 2020 by a think tank linked to Vox.

Sergio Massa supporters shot dead in Buenos Aires. Photograph: Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images

As tributes from the right poured in, the scale of Milei’s victory became clear. The TV celebrity turned political sensation beat his Peronist rival in 21 of Argentina’s 23 provinces and nearly won in Buenos Aires, a Peronist stronghold, where Massa received 50.89% of the vote to Milei’s 49.1% .

In Cordoba, where Milei held his final campaign rally, the wild-haired libertarian beat his rival 74.28% to 25.71%. In Mendoza, the result was 71.42% to 28.57%.

For all the euphoria from the right, experts have cautioned against viewing Milei’s election as a sign of a major conservative shift in Argentine politics.

Yanina Welp, an Argentine political scientist with the Albert Hirschman Center on Democracy, said that issues of culture war and identity politics may have influenced some citizens, but that voters mostly wanted to punish the Peronists for leading Argentina into one of its worst economic crises in decades.

“Massa is the Minister of Economy, the country has an inflation rate of (nearly) 150% and almost half of the country lives in poverty. So it’s pretty easy to understand the rejection of the status quo,” Welp said. “More than being in favor of Milei or Milei’s program, it is (a vote) against the Peronists and the current government.”

Shila Vilker, director of the consulting firm Trespuntozero, was unsure whether the elections were won by Milei or lost by Massa because, as finance minister, many voters blamed his government for their economic misery. What was certain, Vilker believed, was that Massa’s “fear-mongering campaign” – designed to turn off Milei’s voters by portraying him as an emotionally unstable, authoritarian crackpot – had failed.

“People opted for change,” Vilker said. “The idea of ​​change prevailed over continuity, overcoming any kind of fear, whether of the known or the unknown. »

That burning desire for change was expressed around Buenos Aires’ iconic obelisk on Sunday evening, as thousands of Milei voters gathered to toast a deeply unpredictable new chapter in their country’s history .

“I think people are relieved that change is finally coming. The other option was just not good, we need change and quickly,” said Justine Navarra Beber, 19, who was attending her first ever political rally.

Roman Neveira, a 23-year-old programmer, waved a large blue and white Argentine flag as drivers drove by shouting Milei’s slogan: “Viva la libertad, carajo!” » (Long live freedom, damn it!).

“I am very happy and relieved. Things have been going downhill in Argentina for a long time. The fact that someone different like Milei, who doesn’t talk like a politician and has big ideas, came to do something gives me hope,” Neveira said.

“The current situation is not something easy to resolve. We’ll have to be patient but I’m very excited about what they’re going to do.

Another partygoer, Marcelo Álvarez, trumpeted that Milei’s election was a well-deserved rejection of the selfish politicians he accused of ruining millions of lives. “They left people with nothing and now we have won,” beams the 60-year-old small business owner.

Despite this, Álvarez was unsure what the future might hold for him under Milei, a notoriously erratic political neophyte. Milei’s plans include abolishing the central bank, dollarizing the economy and deep austerity measures that many economists fear could further worsen Argentina’s crisis.

“Either things are going to get better soon or they’re going to really go to shit,” Álvarez predicted as the street party raged. “I hope we were not mistaken and that we will come back here to protest in two years.”

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