In Argentina, chainsaw Javier Milei challenges power

After his landslide victory in the presidential election on Sunday, Javier Milei is putting his government team in place. Privatizations, dollarization, chainsaw cutting of state spending: to remedy the endless economic crisis which largely contributed to his election, the libertarian president advocates shock therapy.

On this public holiday Monday in Argentina, Javier Milei is not idle. After a night of celebrations in his “bunker” (campaign HQ), the new Argentine president gave several radio interviews in which he revealed the names of some of his future ministers: Mariano Cuneo Libarona, a criminal lawyer, at Justice , and Carolina Piparo, deputy of her party “Liberty Advances” (LLA) for Social Affairs.

The ultra-liberal president-elect estimated, Monday, November 20, that it will take “18 to 24 months” to control inflation, which is currently 143% over one year, “if we reduced today monetary issuance.

Javier Milei also announced a wave of privatizations: the Telam news agency, public television and radio, as well as the oil company YPF, which exploits the country’s hydrocarbon deposits, are concerned. “We consider that public television has become a propaganda mechanism,” he said, adding that “everything that can be in the hands of the private sector will be.”

The Repsol-YPF tower in the business district of Buenos Aires, November 20, 2023. Agustin Marcarian, Reuters

Anxious to don the mantle of president, he also announced that he would visit the United States and Israel in the coming days, stressing that it would be a “spiritual experience”. During the campaign, the candidate, although Catholic, surprised by affirming an inclination towards Judaism and saying he had engaged in spiritual exchanges with several rabbis.

Going from chainsaw to president’s suit

As of Monday, the president-elect had planned to meet Alberto Fernandez, the outgoing president. “He called me to congratulate me and invited me to a meeting to make the transition as orderly as possible so that the reaction of the markets would be as orderly as possible,” Javier Milei said on the airwaves. He then found a moment to chat with former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

The man who proclaimed himself “the first libertarian president in the history of humanity” on Sunday evening will take office on December 10. He will have to respond to the impatience of his compatriots to reduce inflation from three to single digits, and carry out the promised dollarization of the economy. “The currency will be the one that Argentines choose freely. Basically, we are dollarizing to get rid of the Central Bank” he reaffirmed.

The Argentine Central Bank, in the center of Buenis Aires, November 20, 2023.
The Argentine Central Bank, in the center of Buenis Aires, November 20, 2023. Agustin Marcarian, Reuters

“With 56% of the votes, he is crowned by the result. […] However, I think that this result and its political weight will very quickly crumble. The Argentines expect immediate results and very clearly, he will not be able to deliver them. I think that everything suggests that the economic situation will continue to deteriorate and the lack of support in Parliament will very quickly put it at odds”, explains Gaspard Estrada, specialist in Latin America and teacher at Sciences -Po.

A proxy victory for the Argentine right

Indeed, “Liberty Advance”, the formation of Javier Milei, only has 38 seats out of 217 in the Chamber of Deputies. To carry out his plans to close the Central Bank or dollarize, he will have to form a political alliance with part of the political “caste” that he has continued to vomit from platform to speech.

Read alsoArgentina’s new president Javier Milei promises ‘the end of decadence’

With the 93 deputies of his coalition (Together for Change, JxC), ex-president Mauricio Macri, defeated by Alberto Fernandez in 2019 due to his disastrous management of the economy, has become the indispensable ally of the new president .

An exquisite revenge for one of the richest men in the country, who has never hidden his bitterness at having been beaten by the Kirchnerist enemy who won four out of five presidential elections between 2003 and 2019. During both mandates by Cristina Kirchner (2007-2015), the opposition between supporters and adversaries of the ex-president has become particularly fierce and brutal.

“I think Mauricio Macri is the guarantor [du nouveau président] but it’s a dangerous game. At one point, Javier Milei will want to take full control, but he doesn’t really have a solution,” said Gaspard Estrada.

In other words, if Javier Milei succeeded in winning, it was thanks to the decisive support of the traditional Argentine right. But this dependence risks slowing down the implementation of his project of radical break with the “caste” which has seduced the voters.

Settlements in sight

The magazine Nueva Sociedad also notes that “the anti-caste speech of Javier Milei – which seemed to peak at 30% of the votes – was transformed into ‘Kirchnerism or freedom’, which had been the slogan of Patricia Bullrich (the candidate of the traditional right eliminated in the first round, Editor’s note)”.

The authors of this analysis add that “Mauricio Macri saw in the lack of structure and inexperience of Javier Milei the possibility of regaining power after the failure of his government: not only will Macri’s government provide frameworks for ‘mileism ‘ nascent, but the latter will depend on Macri’s legislators to achieve a minimum of governability.

The victory of the far-right candidate, who successively defeated the traditional right then the electoral machine of the Peronist party, will therefore confront the exercise of power in perilous conditions.

In a few weeks, Javier Milei will be confronted with the impatience of his voters who are demanding a rapid exit from the economic crisis and also with the desire for revenge of ex-President Macri against his Kirknerist enemies. “It is true that Argentine justice is politicized and that we can expect an acceleration of cases concerning Cristina Kirchner.”

Failing to implement his grandiose libertarian project, where supply and demand would reign over an Argentina finally rid of a predatory and incompetent state, Javier Milei will undoubtedly have to start by playing politics and thus deal with the system .

Read alsoSystem or anti-system, the difficult choice of Argentines

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