The libertarian economist Javier Millay won the presidential election in Argentina. In his campaign, he promised the opposite approach to the one the state has implemented in recent years, among other things he calls for the closing of government offices (Miley used to appear with a chainsaw to represent the cuts he wishes to make in government spending), and supports the complete closure of the central bank as part of the “dollarization” process – beyond the use of in the US dollar instead of the Argentine peso, as a way to fight the money printing that resulted in inflation of 142% per year.
The polls predicted a very close result, but in practice Millay was elected with a relatively comfortable majority of 56% of the votes. Congress, on the other hand, remains divided and it is still unclear how it will govern in practice. From the local perspective, Millay is an avowed pro-Israeli, and has announced that he is interested in moving the Argentine embassy to Jerusalem.
But what led to the rise of a radical candidate, who entered Argentine politics only two years ago and is considered external to it? In many ways, more than Shimley won, the previous regime lost. The other presidential candidate, Sergio Massa, who served as Minister of Economy in the outgoing government, led Argentina to dizzying hyperinflation and economic depression.
TV Star and Former Soccer Goalkeeper: The Life Path of the Eccentric President
Argentina’s president-elect Javier Millay, a 53-year-old economist, is considered one of the most eccentric figures in local and possibly global politics.
He began his public career as a popular guest on talk shows, where he used to use particularly blunt language, and he brings unusual statements and actions to the fore.
Miley is not married and has no children. He describes his four dogs (named after famous liberal economists such as Milton Friedman and Marie Rothbard) as “children on all fours”, and cloned them from his original dog “Conan”. An Argentinian journalist even claimed that he consults the dogs on political issues, but Millay replied sarcastically that “they say the dogs determine my strategy? If so, I have the best strategic committee in the world.” He is mainly related by family to his sister Karina Millay who manages his campaign, whom he calls “the boss” and describes her as the architect of his rise to power. If all that wasn’t enough, Millay also billed himself as a “tantric sex expert” and gave advice on group sex.
The young Miley was a goalkeeper in the youth team of the “Chakrita Juniors” football club, and participated in a tribute band to the Rolling Stones. He abandoned these two tracks in the 1980s, during the hyperinflation in Argentina, an event that had a great impact on him and led him to study economics.
Deep political polarization
“The support for Miley is an expression of despair, frustration and disappointment with the economic system,” explains Prof. Raanan Rein, historian of Latin America at Tel Aviv University, “not only the rate of inflation, but also welfare, health and education. Poverty in Argentina has reached monstrous proportions, with 40% of the population and – 56% of the children are below the poverty line. These are frightening figures in a country where there is high-quality human capital and extensive resources. The gaps between what is happening in the capital Buenos Aires and other provinces are also huge.” Indeed, Buenos Aires is one of the few provinces where Rob Lemillie was not registered, while the periphery voted for him in droves.
“That’s why you can see support for Millie from different sectors,” says Prof. Rein, “especially from young people, and from a part of the working class who are apparently ‘supposed’ to vote for peronism (the establishment left in Argentina, a.a.) but choose to give something unfamiliar a chance. Miley’s criticism is clear and understandable, but there is no clear plan beyond the statement that the state needs to be shrunk.”
Matan Lev Ari, Israel’s representative at the Inter-American Development Bank – a US-led project that invests in economic projects in Latin America, tells about the turmoil in the country: “They are moving from left to right and right to left. In recent years, there have mainly been leaders who said that they as a government would be able to fix the economy, by strengthening local production and blocking imports and heavy regulation. The ability to do business in Argentina has become almost impossible. I stayed with a Jewish businessman who said that they had blocked all textile imports to Argentina. But in practice, they give some money at the port, and then bring it in.”
He explains that “in a world that is not completely communist, those who want to control the economy must block it to external competition. Argentina has a democracy, but the government wants to control the entire economy, and this creates a gap that in other times we in Israel were not far from. But we succeeded escape”. Lev Ari refers here, among other things, to the economic stabilization plan of 1985, which was created against the background of raging debts, trade barriers, high government spending and skyrocketing inflation. “I was in Argentina in August, and in every interview they asked about Israel’s overcoming of inflation in the 1980s. There wasn’t an interview that didn’t come up,” says Prof. Rein. It is possible to produce a minimal political consensus with dramatic cuts while agreeing with the workers’ organizations, the employers and the state. The division in the political society is difficult.”
Indeed, the results of the congressional elections highlight the intensity of polarization: Millay’s “Freedom is Progressive” party received only 37 seats out of 257 in the House of Representatives, the lower house of Congress. But only half of the House of Representatives was elected, so in practice it received over a quarter of the votes. In any case, it will be difficult to govern. The party of the previous government “The Union for the Motherland” remained in first place with 108 seats.
Third world country
“Miley rebels against what is portrayed as a political caste that cares about its own interests and not those of ‘the people’, and against a series of failures that have degraded Argentina to the status of a failed third world country,” says Prof. Rein. “This is related to Argentina’s economic role in the international arena: it was built throughout the 19th century as a food producer, and was unable to change, partly because the economic powers wanted it to remain that way. In Argentina there is a large amount of capital that is not within the framework of the institutionalized financial channels, and even during periods when Argentina was rich in Western terms, this made it difficult for the government to effectively control and lead moves to develop infrastructure and diversify industry.”
The response to this was Peronism, which according to Prof. Rein’s definition is “a populist movement, but not the kind we are dealing with these days. Peronism emphasizes the central role of the state as an arbiter in the economic and social relations between the various sectors and classes. Exactly the opposite of Trump or Bolsonaro. Peronism is also a national movement with sharp criticism of the US and its institutions”.
In Lev Ari’s eyes, “Miley points out the real problems, and that is what gives him the power. The question is whether he will be able to provide the solutions. He is working in a difficult environment, because the continent has also experienced a wave of economic leftism. Governments in Latin America have collapsed one after the other, disappointingly that citizens experienced from the collapse of government services in Corona, and the increase in poverty and inequality. But Argentina always has to be different. With all the problems, for a month I couldn’t talk to my counterparts there because they were celebrating the World Cup.”
For your attention: The Globes system strives for a diverse, relevant and respectful discourse in accordance with the code of ethics that appears in the trust report according to which we operate. Expressions of violence, racism, incitement or any other inappropriate discourse are filtered out automatically and will not be published on the site.