THE OVERWHELMING MARCH OF JAVIER MILEI
When a society, a country has been in a state of deep discontent for long enough, it is inevitable that bitterness, anger and frustration will spill over to those who would have the power to change things but lack the capacity to do so. For discontent to become a force capable of undermining the foundations of a system, it is necessary for those who give a voice to the anger and discontent and, in the absence of a solution, propose revenge.
The more one cries out, the more eschatological the aims of revenge, the greater the consensus, until the balance of power tips. Javier Gerardo Milei, 52-year old leader of the La Libertad Avanza (LLA) movement, has reached this point: formerly an Argentine parliamentarian, in the PASO (Spanish acronym for Compulsory Simultaneous Primary ) elections on 13 August he obtained 30.09% of the vote, jumping into the lead in the presidential race on 22 October next .
This throws both the Peronists of Unión por la Patria (UP) and the right-wingers of Juntos por el Cambio (JxC) into despair. Sergio Massa, current Minister for the Economy and candidate of UP, pays for the country’s disastrous economic situation (annual inflation stands at 114%, the third highest in the world ) and the delicacy of his position, which does not allow him to concentrate on the electoral campaign. Massa nevertheless won the internal coalition primaries (with a personal best of 20.9%), defeating the left-wing candidate Juan Gabrois .
Should the Peronists fail to catch up, with JxC attempting to go and challenge Milei in his camp , the scenario could be a runoff between two right-wing forces with an anti-system vocation. In this sense, the Argentine vote could anticipate by a few months a similar scenario in the United States, where the two real alternatives, according to current polls, are Donald Trump’s white supremacists and the neo-Nazi sects linked to Qanon and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The origin of this political earthquake is therefore in the uncertainty, unease and lack of answers to the serious problems afflicting the country.
Javier Milei, an economist with a difficult yet affluent childhood, shocks the public with phrases such as: ‘I have not come to lead the lambs, I have come to wake the lions!’ . Amongst his proposals, expounded in fiery rallies or in crackling television debates, are the dollarisation of the economy, the privatisation of public companies, and the closure of Argentina’s Central Bank. Outside the economic field, he declares himself against abortion (which will only be legally achieved in 2020 ), in favour of the right to go armed and defend oneself .
Buenos Aires, 7 June 2023; demonstrators in favour of Javier Milei
In spite of these positions in line with those of other more or less successful right-wing leaders on the international scene – Bolsonaro, Trump, former Chilean presidential candidate José Antonio Kast – Milei stands out for a few ideological deviations: he does not consider homosexuality a disease and does not oppose same-sex unions . He is also libertarian, Milei, when he considers the possibility of regulating the sale of organs to cope with the problem of people waiting for transplants, and when he says he is in favour of the legalisation of all drugs (without providing recovery and care centres for drug addicts) .
On the subject of the climate emergency, Milei is in line with the Trump and Bolsonaro deniers, who blame science for unnecessary alarmism; he calls it a socialist lie . Pope Francis is a communist, according to Milei, and represents evil on Earth . The contradictions in his campaign do not faze his constituents: he has managed to win the sympathy of the migrant community, while proposing to ban foreigners with criminal records from entering the country and expel those who commit crimes . In keeping with his reputation as an anti-state economist, Milei intends to reduce the state to the bare minimum, starting with the abolition of the Ministries of Education, Health and Social Development, symbols, according to him, of an aberrant social justice that creates deficits and fattens the political class. No more taxes, then, with the state only responsible for administering internal security and justice, leaving all other forms of social relations to be regulated by contracts between private individuals .
So why is it precisely the poorest who support him? It is likely that many Argentineans support Milei more for what he stands for in an anti-caste capacity than for the proposals he intends to put forward. Or we would be forced to admit that the economy has regressed to its lowest point, that of barter and tithes, in which every penny given to the state is a penny taken away from food for the offspring. People also like his personal story: the son of a bus driver turned entrepreneur and a housewife, Milei had a difficult childhood, suffering violence and harassment from his parents and finding comfort only in his maternal grandmother and his younger sister Karina, who is now his campaign manager and whom he calls ‘El Jefe’ (The Chief).
At school, he is often the victim of attacks of uncontrolled rage that earn him the nickname ‘El Loco’ (The Madman); he graduated in Economics from the University of Belgrano, and obtained two Masters in Economics. His subsequent occupations are diverse, including: senior economist at the Argentine headquarters of HSBC, advisor to the Argentine government at ICSID (International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes), chief economist at the holding company Corporación América , advisor and member of the Economic Studies Division of the think tank Fundación Acordar . Another contradiction, because there is no man who is more an expression of the apparatus than he.
For twenty years, Milei was a university professor of various economic subjects , as well as the author of several books . In 2007, he began consulting with Aeropuertos 2000, the company contracted to manage Argentina’s airports . In addition to this, Milei was an advisor to General Antonio Bussi, governor of the province of Tucumán at the time of the military dictatorship and later became a member of parliament . Milei’s first television appearances date back to 2016: since then, he has become one of the most influential personalities in Argentina and a star among educated young people, won over by his effective and colourful way of expressing radical concepts .
Javier Milei (left) in his days as an assistant to Tucumán’s vicious torturer, Antonio Bussi (right)
We do not know whether the character played by Milei, balanced between spontaneity and opportunism, will withstand the storm of a fierce presidential campaign, and whether he will make it to the Casa Rosada. What is certain is that the path is fraught with obstacles and contingencies, such as the recently opened investigations by Argentina’s Federal Prosecutor’s Office into corruption charges brought against Milei by his former allies: businessman and politician Juan Carlos Blumberg, liberal political leader and former La Libertad Avanza (LLA) member Carlos Maslatón, and former LLA activist Mila Zurbriggen are among those who have publicly denounced the selling of candidacies ahead of the 22 October election.
Blumberg accuses Carlos Kikuchi, Sebastián Pareja and Javier’s sister Karina Milei – members of his close circle of collaborators – of receiving around $50,000 to secure a position as a consultant . Milei brands these accusations as elements of a smear campaign . As the investigations and the campaign go on, the certainty is that Argentina joins the ranks of nations in which a large section of the electorate, distressed by uncertainty, seeks answers in talented storytellers who promote radical, simplistic and non-painless solutions to extremely complex problems – and who have so far not solved problems, but undermined democratic institutions.
 https://reason.com/2023/08/14/a-self-described-anarcho-capitalist-won-a-plurality-in-argentinas-presidential-primary/ ; https://english.elpais.com/international/2023-08-15/whats-going-on-inside-javier-mileis-head.html