Sat. Dec 9th, 2023

Analysis | The vote of anger of the Argentinians

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Ultraliberal economist Javier Milei will be the next president of Argentina.

  • François Brousseau (View profile)François Brousseau

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The United States had Donald Trump. Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro. Argentina will now have, for the next four years, a certain Javier Milei, elected this Sunday by a landslide vote of 56% to 44% – or 13 million votes to 10 million for his unsuccessful rival Sergio Massa.

Today begins the reconstruction of Argentina, the end of decadence. The impoverishing model of the omnipresent state is ending. Today, we once again embrace the ideas of freedom, those of our founding fathers, Milei said in his victory speech. He promised to make Argentina the rich country it was a century ago.

In threatening Trump-like tones, he demanded that the government take charge of the transition, and warned that it will be very tough on those who violently resist the proposed changes. There will be no progress or lukewarmness […] and if we do not act quickly with the structural changes that Argentina needs, we are heading towards the worst crisis in history.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Trump, Bolsonaro and now Milei. Three atypical right-wing leaders, representing three of the five most populous countries in the Americas. Three characters with brutal rhetoric, without any magnanimity in victory.

Leaders labeled with various terms – extremist, populist, authoritarian, reactionary, libertarian, hard neoliberal, anti-state, demagogue, egotistical, cruel – who never manage to define them precisely, or place them in the same family.

As it is true that these three characters represent, each in their own way, despite similarities in style and with their respective programs (when they really have any a), various ways of brutally rejecting the political status quo, the men and women who embodied it.

Is Javier Milei a political cousin of the two previous ones, his neighbors in the Americas? Yes, if we look at the style, the big mouth, the contempt for adversaries, the angry antagonism etched on the face.

Yes, we can classify them all together on the right, and even a hard right, since all three continually express their defiance and their distrust in the face of the deep state, in the face of the socialists, and even the communists who are supposed to have always been in power, for the greatest misfortune of peoples.

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Argentinians celebrate Javier Milei's victory in Buenos Aires.

But the differences are also important.

Bolsonaro is an avowed militarist who, after his October 2022 defeat against Lula da Silva, awaited redemption from a putsch that remained hypothetical… This soldier is paradoxically a man with a weak, complaining personality – more than once, he literally bawled in front of the cameras – and not very good at rhetoric.

Trump is a businessman, an authoritarian with no known military support, a genius of the murderous formula, who perfectly dominates his crowds, making them silence or shout at the finger and the eye. Ultra-partisan troops who consider him a god on whom no wrong, no crime, no reproach can be attached.

His program? Put the State in his hands – and in particular justice – so that the hour of punishment and vengeance can finally come: I am your retribution — formula that can be freely translated as: I will be the punishment of your enemies.

Javier Milei, in comparison? He’s an outsidercame from economic studies, without a background in business or in the army, who has mainly made himself known in recent years through his televised interventions as an expert, and who was belatedly elected deputy, in 2021.

A singular character, who, yes, would in some way want to punish his enemies – but not in the criminal sense like Trump. A strange bird who can suddenly blurt out in a television interview, with bulging eyes, a sexual and cryptic allusion: I was in the sheets with Bullrich (the unsuccessful candidate of the traditional right in the first round)… which Patricia Bullrich subsequently joined him in the second round!

The movement that accompanies it (Liberty Advances, acronym LLA) is new – founded in the summer of 2021 – and very small. Today it only has 35 deputies out of 257. Only 120 seats were at stake this fall in the Chamber of Deputies – which means that LLA still won 29% on the first try. In the Senate, it's 7 out of 72.

The new president can make parliamentary allies – the traditional right has partly rallied behind him in the second round, we will see what it will do in parliament – ​​but it will not have any stable majority to support it.

Milei has made a name for himself by denouncing in an angry and radical manner the endemic and persistent ills of the Argentine economy, with a position that can be described as libertarian or ultra-neoliberal and extreme verbal violence, even passionate, against caste. A political class that he continually denounces, with an undeniable vulgarity that has made him popular.

For him, Peronism and its multiple avatars over the past three quarters of a century – the latest being Kirchnerism – are at the origin of all of Argentina's ills. Nestor Kirchner was president from 2003 to 2007, then his wife Cristina Fernandez from 2007 to 2015. Alberto Fernandez, outgoing president, also represents this trend, of which the unsuccessful candidate Sergio Massa, Minister of the Economy, was the heir.< /p>

Argentina is a country in serious economic crisis. Inflation there is close to 150%, one of the world peaks, not far behind Venezuela. The external debt is enormous, poverty is endemic. With less than $500 a month, nearly 40% of the population barely earns enough to eat.

Today, according to rankings, either by gross domestic product (GDP) or by the Human Development Index (the UN Development Program HDI), Argentina ranks between 60th and 80th, with an average income per person in the $10,000.

And this, in a country where prices often resemble those at home, and where the informal rate of the peso, the national currency, has experienced a dizzying fall, going from 80 pesos to the US dollar at the end of 2019… to 1000 pesos for one dollar today!

Sergio Massa, the minister officially responsible for this situation, dragged this ball and chain during his unfortunate presidential candidacy, which resulted in 44% votes in the second round.

Faced with this economic disaster, Milei had no choice but to make her blunt denunciations.

Some examples of his verbal violence: We must exterminate the political caste. I did not come here to guide lambs but to wake the lions. I am the king of the jungle. In Argentina, the State is like a pedophile in a kindergarten.Between the mafia and the State, I prefer the mafia. She has codes, keeps her commitments. She doesn't lie, she's competitive.

Or even this pearl, against a famous compatriot, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, supposed to come back to visit his country in 2024: Pope Francis is a dirty leftist.

Milei, more than Trump or Bolsonaro, has what may seem like an economic doctrine. He blames the endemic evil of Peronism, somehow embedded in the country’s political culture: a culture that must be broken at all costs.

He argues that policies – heavy interventionism in the economy, exchange rate controls, ineffective price controls creating shortages and the black market – are stifling the development and have been weighing down the country's economy for decades.

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Supporters of La Libertad Avanza presidential candidate Javier Milei wait in front of the bunker during the October 22, 2023 general elections in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

But Milei also embodies, apart from the economy, ideas completely contrary to the progressivism of a country which wanted to be at the forefront guard of Latin America in matters of social rights.

He proposes to repeal the law on abortion, legal since 2020. He has regularly mocked same-sex marriage, in force since 2010. He denies that climate change is caused by human intervention. He proposes privatizing public companies and even Argentina's natural resources, arguing for example that if the rivers have owners, they will no longer be polluted.

Milei's running mate, new Vice President Victoria Villarruel, from a military family, was criticized for comments defending the dictatorship in power from 1976 to 1983. She denied the widely accepted figure of 30,000 victims of the dictatorship.

With the election of Javier Milei done, what will happen? Will he be willing and able to implement his program and subvert almost a century of political and economic culture?

As voting day approached, he walked back some of his most controversial statements. He said he no longer wanted to completely privatize health and education, or abolish the corresponding ministries. He said he would receive the pope with the respect due to a head of state. Maybe after all, he won't break with China and Brazil…

As for his popular support… The score of 56% is impressive, but does it express programmatic and ideological support?

Some voters undoubtedly share his extreme opinions, but a good number wanted instead to express their frustration in the face of an economic and political reality that has horrified them for a long time, and to kick the political anthill and the Peronist elite. It was a vote against, rather than a vote for.

According to an editorialist fromLa Nación, one of the main Argentinian dailies, voters did not look at Milei's ideology; they saw in him an angry man, a man symbolizing a setback.

Much more alarmist, the small left-wing newspaper Pagina 12 writes in a hot editorial: Our country will be a fascist laboratory in which cruelty and stupidity will be celebrated.

The final word to the unsuccessful candidate, the Peronist Sergio Massa, dignified in defeat and optimistic about democracy in Argentina, remaining strong despite all the economic ills: Our country has a strong, solid democratic system and transparent that respects results. I want to tell you that the results are obviously not what we expected. I contacted Milei to congratulate him, because he is the president that the majority elected to represent them.

Words that everyone could ponder the Trump and Bolsonaro of the Americas.

  • François Brousseau (View profile)François BrousseauFollow

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