The Argentines' choice is clear: they inflicted a scathing defeat on Sergio Massa, the Peronist candidate in the presidential election this Sunday, November 19, by granting 56% of the votes to his libertarian opponent Javier Milei. Sergio Massa was Minister of Economy in the Kirchnerist government, named after ex-president Cristina Kirchner, a branch of Peronism. Javier Milei will succeed Alberto Fernandez on December 10. The economic record of this government was particularly catastrophic: 140% inflation, 50% poverty rate, sluggish growth, central bank reserves at rock bottom, an abysmal deficit in the state budget.
“Today begins the reconstruction of Argentina,” Javier Milei proclaimed in front of delighted supporters. Today begins the end of decadence. The impoverishing model of the omnipresent state is over. Today we embrace the ideas of freedom, those of our founding fathers.” He warned that he will be very tough with those who “resist with violence” the reforms he proposes and there will be no “half measures or lukewarmness”. The new Argentine president announced that he wanted to move quickly to get the country out of the crisis. “If we do not quickly implement the structural changes that Argentina needs, we will have the worst crisis in history. We will embrace the ideas of freedom to once again become a world power. »
Javier Milei, 53, entered political life two years ago when he became a deputy for Buenos Aires. He had previously had a career as an economist, often invited on television sets and appreciated for his excesses and his anger in front of the cameras. “I am the lion, I am the king” he often proclaims during his meetings. His arrival in politics was supported by… Sergio Massa himself, whose entourage financed his Freedom Advance party. Massa's goal was to hinder the candidacy of Patricia Bullrich of former President Mauricio Macri's right-wing party. She came third in the first round. Sergio Massa hoped that Javier Milei's exuberance and provocations would prevent Mauricio Macri from supporting the libertarian candidate. But his maneuver backfired. From the evening of the first round, Patricia Bullrich and Mauricio Macri gave their support to Javier Milei, making possible the victory of the man who was considered a less than credible and marginal candidate just a few months ago.
Javier Milei's shock program is based on the reduction of areas of state intervention and the privatization of public companies. To do this, he promised to abolish the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, Social Affairs and the Ministry of Women's Rights. He wants the private sector to take charge of health and education, and to eliminate social assistance to restore the state's accounts. His flagship measure is to “chainsaw” the central bank, abandon the Argentine peso and dollarize the economy to fight inflation. He also promised to review the law authorizing abortion adopted in 2020. More generally, he wants to put an end to the “corrupt caste”, in which he groups politicians and journalists.
Will his government be powerful enough to apply these shock remedies? In parliament he only has 38 deputies out of 350. To obtain a majority, he will have to count on the support of the 94 deputies loyal to Mauricio Macri and the right-wing Peronists heirs of former president Carlos Menem, who died in 2021. His strength lies in the scale of his victory: he won in 21 of the country's 24 electoral districts. He obtained 3 million more votes than Sergio Massa. Its electorate is recruited from the working and middle classes and especially from young people who have only known Kirchnerism.
He also has the support of the armed forces who voted overwhelmingly for him. Lieutenant Commander Jorge Eduardo Acosta gave him his support from his prison where he is locked up after a conviction for crimes committed during the dictatorship. Javier Milei has, throughout his campaign, minimized the crimes of the dictatorship, calling them simple “excesses”. He believes that the figure of 30,000 disappeared between 1976 and 1983 put forward by human rights defenders “is an excuse to continue to steal”.
His candidate for vice president, Victoria Villarruel is a daughter and niece of a soldier. On Sunday, she was welcomed in her polling station by a group of human rights defenders who came to denounce her defense of the dictatorship. In response she declared in the evening: “this is the first time that the daughter of a veteran of the Falklands War (against Margaret Thatcher's England in 1982, Editor's note) has become vice-president. I don’t know why this bothers them when they supported the children of terrorists in government.” Those resisting the dictatorship were labeled terrorists by the military government.
Victoria Villarruel has made numerous declarations to rehabilitate the regime of generals who ruled the country from 1976 to 1983. She wants to eliminate the museum dedicated to the horrors of this regime installed at Esma (Higher School of the Argentine Navy), in the center from Buenos Aires. It was one of the main torture centers of the time. She believes that the 17 hectares of this place must be returned to the population by transforming it into a strolling garden rather than paying tribute to the victims of the dictatorship. Esma included a maternity ward where the soldiers gave birth to women raped by their torturers before making them disappear and entrusting the children to families close to the dictatorship.