A 51-year-old economist, ultra-liberal and provocative, Javier Milei emerged as an electoral phenomenon in Buenos Aires where, with a speech against politicians, he disputed for second place in Sunday’s parliamentary elections to the ruling center-left coalition Frente de Todos.
“I did not come here to guide lambs, I came to awaken lions,” Milei exclaims in a square where dozens of supporters applaud him enthusiastically. “Long live freedom, damn it!” He shouts again, and blames “the political caste” for the ills of Argentina, a mess in which he does not distinguish right from left, or opposition government.
He is on the campaign trail, but his electoral act consists of an economics “class” to a mostly young and male public, disbelieving in politics, which is flattered by this intellectual format in which books are raffled off at the end of the activity .
“He speaks sincerely, he does not beat around the bush,” praises Daniel Quiroz, an electromechanics student, living in the more humble south of Buenos Aires, who attends his first election.
In the square a line is formed to adhere to his new libertarian party, which in the mandatory primary elections in September came in third place in the Argentine capital with 13.6% of the votes.
“Today, in Argentina, there is a fairly broad socialism created by everything that is the political caste. We call caste everything that has been around for a long time and does not want to leave power,” says Matías Miró, a 40-year-old libertarian activist.
According to polls, his strength is on the rise and also worries the center-right coalition Juntos, which has governed Buenos Aires since 2007 and does not want it to lose votes. “The ideas that Milei expresses are the same that I always expressed,” former President Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) recently declared.
– “Cultural battle” –
With a curious hair, according to himself the product of not combing his hair for years, Milei is a controversial character.
He has published several books and at the same time has been accused of plagiarizing entire paragraphs. In addition, he had a radio program on the web, “Demolishing myths.” Ramiro Marra, his running mate for the Chamber of Deputies, is a YouTube star, with a channel where he teaches how to invest in bitcoins.
“Having gotten into politics does not mean abandoning the cultural battle. We are going to continue fighting the cultural battle, but now also from the inside,” Milei told AFP when explaining her decision to join the parliament that she considers riddled with thieves.
“We are never going to create new taxes, we are never going to go against life, we are never going to go against freedom and we are never going to go against property. We are going to send projects that remove this oppression of the State on people,” promises this man who likes to cite the glories of the nineteenth century, like Juan Bautista Alberdi, the inspirer of the Constitution who said: “He who does not believe in freedom as a source of wealth neither deserves to be free nor knows how to be rich.”
On the international scene, he is not bothered by the comparison with former US President Donald Trump or with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
– All social classes –
Milei’s followers are mostly men, between 18 and 40 years old, from all social classes, according to political scientist Diego Reynoso, from the University of San Andrés.
“He clearly positions himself to the right, both economically – less State, more market – and in other values, for example his opposition to abortion,” which in Argentina has been legal since 2020, says the political scientist.
His preaching against the “political caste”, which he blames for the economic, social and political crisis that Argentina is suffering, places him “outside the political system. It allows him to make a clearly anti-establishment discourse and from there he capitalizes a lot,” says Reynoso .
And in the most disadvantaged areas of the Argentine capital, where their vote was slightly higher than average, their criticisms of state intervention have been echoed.
“There is an explanation. In those neighborhoods there are people with formal employment who despite their efforts cannot get out of there and complain about the discounts they make. One would think that these sectors ask for more fiscal pressure, but it is not like that” said this analyst.