Vox España; Photo illustration by John Lyman

World News


A Pro-Life, Pro-Organ Trade Libertarian Could be Argentina’s Next President

Having experienced childhood trauma and consistently simmering with intensity, bordering on anger, Argentina’s far-right populist presidential candidate Javier Milei has emerged victorious in recent primary elections by leveraging voter anger and shaping the political discourse through his histrionic behavior.

At a recent Milei rally, the loudspeakers blared hard rock music, accompanied by the exultant cheers of thousands of supporters. A depiction of a roaring lion engulfed in flames illuminated the backdrop. Javier Milei, wearing his signature leather jacket, burst onto the stage, whipping the crowd into a fervor. “I am the lion,” Milei proclaimed. “I am the king in a lost world.”

Milei, a self-proclaimed libertarian economist with some questionable views on organ trading and the legalization of drugs, and staunchly pro-life, has dominated the public discourse with his bold declarations. He argues on the campaign trail that burning the country’s central bank down “will put an end to inflation,” and insists that politicians should be ousted “with a swift kick to their backsides.”

Notoriously unreliable public opinion polls had predicted that Juntos por el Cambio, a center-right coalition, would amass the largest share of votes, spread between Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, the Mayor of Buenos Aires, and Patricia Bullrich, the chairwoman of Republican Proposal. Initial predictions placed Sergio Massa, the leading candidate from the ruling Peronist party, to secure approximately one-third, while Javier Milei was predicted to claim one-fifth. However, defying expectations, Milei received an impressive 30%, overshadowing the 28% of Bullrich and Larreta. In contrast, the reigning Peronists secured 27%. Bucking expectations, Milei emerged victorious in 16 out of 24 provinces.

His direct critique of the political establishment, whom he labels the “privileged caste,” has propelled his popularity among younger voters disenchanted with the country’s current state of affairs. Milei has drawn comparisons to former U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. “We have managed to build this competitive alternative that will not only put an end to Kirchnerism but will also bring an end to the parasitic, thieving, and useless political caste in this country,” he has proclaimed.

Milei has become the conduit for the anger felt by a large number of Argentinian voters as they grapple with their country’s persistently dysfunctional economy. Annual inflation stands at a staggering 116%, outpacing virtually every other corner of the globe, behind only Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and Lebanon. The weight of oppressive taxes has forced many businesses to resort to off-the-grid operations. Stringent capital controls create a near-insurmountable barrier for Argentinians seeking to legally acquire dollars, their preferred currency for safeguarding their savings.

This situation has created an expansive black market for U.S. dollars, its fluctuating value serving as a litmus test for the nation’s economic health. At present, a U.S. dollar on the black-market commands approximately $700 Argentine pesos, a twofold surge from a year ago. Prior to the most recent elections, the official exchange rate was merely half of this. This prompted the country’s central bank to devalue the peso by a substantial 20% and hike the benchmark interest rates by a notable 21%, now resting at an astonishing 118%. According to most economists, the peso’s devaluation is poised to amplify inflation even further.

The country’s failing economy has added to the alure of a candidate like Javier Milei. Among his several positions, Milei advocates for the de-dollarization of the economy, although how exactly he plans on doing so remain vague. He wants to significantly curb expenditures, and dismantle currency and price restrictions. His economic positions have overshadowed his more divisive positions such as a near total ban on abortions, granting Argentinians the freedom to openly carry firearms, and legalize the trade of human organs.

Much like other populists that he is being compared to, namely Trump and Bolsonaro, controversy risks overshadowing his candidacy. Accusations of misogynistic behavior have been leveled against Milei. Several media outlets have chronicled instances of mistreatment suffered by female journalists during interviews with him, and political analysts argue that his platform seeks to undermine gender equality. “In my administration, there will be no Cultural Marxism, and I won’t be apologizing for being male. If it were up to me, I would shut down the Ministry of Women,” Milei declared in an interview.

Should Milei emerge victorious, governing would be challenging. Presently, his coalition holds a mere two seats in the Chamber of Deputies, with no representation in the Senate. Navigating international relations would require finesse. The current landscape in Latin America is dominated by left-leaning governments, potentially harboring skepticism towards Milei.

The path to the presidency remains shrouded in uncertainty. The extent to which Milei can attract more voters remains a puzzle, while Patricia Bullrich seeks to peel off many of his supporters as they learn more about what he actually stands for. Sergio Massa, having secured a fifth of the votes, could seize an advantage from the Milei-Bullrich contest by appealing to moderates. If no candidate manages to secure at least 45% of the votes, or 40% with a ten-point lead over the runner-up, a second round of elections will be held in November. Javier Milei’s 53rd birthday coincides with the initial round, and his gift could potentially be the task of reconstructing a fractured nation.