Libertarian outsider Javier Milei swept to victory in Argentina’s presidential election on Sunday, vowing to halt decades of economic decline in a country reeling from triple-digit inflation.
The self-described “anarcho-capitalist” pulled off a massive upset by ousting the populist Peronist coalition, which has long dominated Argentine politics.
With 55.7 percent of the vote, Milei thumped his rival, Economy Minister Sergio Massa, who scored 44 percent of the vote and rapidly conceded defeat. “Today begins the reconstruction of Argentina. Today begins the end of Argentina’s decline,” Milei said in his victory speech. “The model of decadence has come to an end. There is no way back.”
Latin America’s third-biggest economy has suffered decades of crises under interventionist governments big on welfare that resort to money printing to finance spending, fueling inflation, while borrowing heavily only to default on their debt. Access to dollars is strictly controlled, leading to a thriving black market for greenbacks, and analysts warn the peso is ripe for a sharp devaluation.
Milei’s main platform has been a plan to ditch the ailing peso for the US dollar and “dynamite” the Central Bank to do away with the “cancer of inflation.” However, analysts warn the country is too low on dollar reserves for the move to happen anytime soon.
Milei, a 53-year-old economist with wild hair and thick sideburns, has drawn comparisons with former US president Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro for his abrasive style and controversial remarks. Both former presidents congratulated him on social media.
Milei is against abortion, vowed to cut ties with key trading partners China and Brazil, insulted Pope Francis, questioned the death toll under Argentina’s brutal dictatorship and says humans are not behind climate change.
Meanwhile, the country’s coffers are in the red, with $44 billion debt with the International Monetary Fund looming over the incoming government.
China said on Monday it would continue working with Argentina, congratulating president-elect Javier Milei on his victory, after he had vowed on the campaign trail to cut ties with Beijing.
The US congratulated Milei on his election victory Sunday, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken praising the “strong turnout and peaceful conduct of the vote.”
Miroslava Salazar, with AFP