The Guardian

Trump ally wins power in crisis-hit Argentina

Tom Phillips Rio de Janeiro Josefina Salomón and Facundo Iglesia Buenos Aires

Leaders of the global far-right yesterday praised Javier Milei’s thumping election victory in Argentina, which experts predict will turn Buenos Aires into a new stamping ground for radical populism.

Milei, a volatile far-right libertarian who has vowed to “exterminate” inflation and take a chainsaw to the state, catapults South America’s second largest economy into an unpredictable and potentially turbulent future.

Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro led the celebrations after their Argentinian ally trounced his rival, the Peronist finance minister, Sergio Massa, by nearly 3m votes in Sunday’s presidential election.

The former US president predicted that Milei – a climate-denying populist who is known by the nickname El Loco (the madman) – would “truly make Argentina great again”, while Brazil’s

ex-president applauded a victory for “honesty, progress and freedom”.

Bolsonarista and Mileísta activists predicted Milei’s win would be the first of three rightwing conquests culminating in Trump and Bolsonaro reclaiming power in 2024 and 2026.

During his campaign, Milei – who will take office on 10 December – vowed to abolish the central bank and dollarise the economy in order to overcome a financial calamity that has left 40% of Argentina’s 45 million citizens in poverty and pushed inflation to more than 140%.

Milei’s leftwing opponents reacted with shock and dejection to the election of a notoriously erratic figure whose radical ideas include legalising the sale of organs, cutting ties with Argentina’s two biggest trade partners, Brazil and China, and deep austerity measures that many economists fear could further exacerbate Argentina’s crisis. Benjamin Gedan, the head of the Wilson Centre’s Argentina Project, said he believed one word explained the scale of Milei’s victory: desperation.

“A lot of Argentines voted knowingly against their economic interests because they recognise that the status quo is catastrophic,” he added.

In his first post-victory interview yesterday, Milei announced he would travel to the US and Israel – where he has promised to move Argentina’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – before being sworn in on 10 December alongside his ultra-conservative vice-presidentelect, Victoria Villarruel.

Bolsonaro announced he would attend Milei’s inauguration in Buenos Aires and posted footage of a pally video call with Argentina’s presidentelect. “I’m really happy,” Bolsonaro told the radical libertarian economist. “You have a big job ahead of you … and it’s a job that goes beyond Argentina,” Brazil’s former leader added. “Gracias!” Milei replied.

As rightwing tributes poured in, the scale of Milei’s victory became clear. The TV celebrity-turned-political sensation beat his Peronist rival in 21 of Argentina’s 23 provinces and came within a whisker of winning in Buenos Aires, a Peronist stronghold.

A desire for change was writ large around Buenos Aires’s Obelisk on Sunday night as thousands of Milei voters gathered to toast a new and profoundly unpredictable chapter in their country’s history.

Roman Neveira, a 23-year-old programmer waved a large Argentinian flag as drivers cruised past shouting Milei’s slogan: “Viva la libertad, carajo!” (Long live freedom, dammit!). “I’m very happy and relieved,” Neveira said. “Things have been going downhill in Argentina for a long time. The fact that someone different like Milei, who doesn’t talk like a politician and has great ideas, has come out to do something is giving me hope.” Another reveller, Marcelo Álvarez, trumpeted Milei’s election as a repudiation of the politicians he blamed for ruining millions of lives. “They left people with nothing and now we have won,” the 60-year-old small business owner beamed.

“Things will either get better soon or they will really go to shit,” Álvarez said as the street party raged. “I hope we didn’t get it wrong and come back here to protest in two years.”

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