Javier Milei won Argentina’s presidential elections on Sunday, wrenching his country to the right with a bombastic anti-establishment campaign that drew comparisons to that of former US President Donald Trump – all against the backdrop of one of the world’s highest inflation rates.
His rival Sergio Massa conceded the run-off vote on Sunday evening in a brief speech even before official results were announced. “Milei is the president elected for the next 4 years,” said Massa, adding that he had already called Milei to congratulate him.
Following his election victory, Milei told a local radio station that he will visit the US and Israel before his inauguration in December.
His trip to the US will have “a spiritual connotation” since he is aiming to visit his “rabbi friends,” he said.
When asked about his schedule, Milei said that he would take a plane to the United States and then go to Tel Aviv, via New York, in the next few days.
“We discussed this yesterday with the Israeli Ambassador in Argentina,” he said, adding that he intends to visit the Organization of American States (OAS) during his time in the US.
Milei’s victory marks an extraordinary rise for the former TV pundit, who entered the race as a political outsider on a promise to “break up with the status quo” – exemplified by his rival Sergio Massa, a career politician.
His campaign promise to dollarize Argentina, if enacted, is expected to thrust the country into new territory: no country of Argentina’s size has previously turned over the reins of its own monetary policy to Washington decisionmakers.
Shortly after the results were announced, Milei was greeted by cheers and thunderous applause from his supporters as he took to the stage and gave a fiery speech, pledging to take the country into a new political era.
“Today we turn the page on our history and we return to the path that we should never have lost,” Milei said. “Today we retake the path that made this country great.”
Milei, a social conservative with ties to the American right, opposes abortion rights and has called climate change a “lie of socialism.” He has promised to slash government spending by closing Argentina’s ministries of culture, education, and diversity, and by eliminating public subsidies.
“Make Argentina great again!” Trump posted on his platform Truth Social Sunday, in reaction to Milei’s win. “I am very proud of you,” he wrote.
Similarities to Trump have not gone unnoticed in the United States as it prepares for its own presidential elections. Milei succeeded in attracting attention at home not only because of his political style – including wielding chainsaws and raging outbursts – but also because of the novelty of his positions and eagerness to upset the status quo.
Echoing the Trumpian slogan, ‘Drain the swamp’, Milei’s supporters shout “¡¡Qué se vayan todos!!” which translates as “May they all leave!” – an expression of fury at politicians from both sides of the spectrum. Argentina’s left is currently in government, following rule by the right from 2015 to 2019.
Outside of his controversial plan for dollarization, Milei’s political program includes slashing regulations on gun control and transferring authority over the penitentiary system from civilians to the military; both measures part of a tough-on-crime approach. He proposes using public funds to support families who choose to educate their children privately and even privatizing the health sector, which in Argentina has always been in public hands.
Several outspoken comments landed Milei in hot water, without deterring his most ardent supporters. He triggered an uproar when it appeared Milei was in favor of opening a market for organ transplants, although he later retracted his declarations. He was similarly forced to apologize after calling Pope Francis, who is from Argentina and is seen as an icon of progressive politics in South America, “an envoy of Satan” in 2017.
Milei’s unexpected political ascent will be closely scrutinized around the world as a potential sign of a resurgence of far-right populism in the region. Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro endorsed Milei’s candidacy, while leftist leaders in the region – including current Brazilian leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Colombia’s Gustavo Petro – abandoned a tradition of non-intervention to back Massa in the election run-up.
Public opinion polls had shown the two candidates neck-and-neck in recent weeks.
The candidacy of Massa, a lifelong politician, came to represent Argentina’s political establishment over the course of the race against Milei. Inflation reached painful heights during his tenture as economy minister, at 142% year on year, but Massa argued that the current government’s actions were working to temper the pain – an argument that failed to convince voters exhausted by a cost-of-living crisis.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.
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