Explaining Brazil #178: Argentina’s far-right lion

Javier Milei: vaccine skeptic, climate change denier, libertarian economist … and now, one of the biggest political stars in Argentina

Argentina’s political system could be braced for more changes, with parties on the far-left and far-right making significant gains and breaking the duopoly of Peronists and anti-Peronists. And this week, we’ll talk about a new face on the scene of Argentinian political heavyweights: Javier Milei, often referred to as Argentina’s answer to Jair Bolsonaro.

Mr. Milei epitomizes the anti-establishment rebellion in Argentina. A trained economist, he spent years doing the rounds on political talk shows, slamming the ruling parties.

The far-right leader refuses to get vaccinated against Covid-19, he is a climate change denier, and describes himself as a “lion” with his shock of tousled dark-brown hair. On Sunday, he got 17 percent of the votes in Buenos Aires city, and his political group, La Libertad Avanza, is now planning to expand nationwide, entering the center stage of the political system.

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  • Ignacio Portes is The Brazilian Report’s Buenos Aires correspondent. He writes the Latin America Weekly newsletter and covers affairs around the continent. He previously worked for the Buenos Aires Herald and The Bubble, and has written for outlets such as Al Jazeera and The Financial Times.

This episode used music from Uppbeat. License codes: HOW4VFPCE9HYR0AK, DNHV8CI0LMWGKTFK.

Background reading:

  • An electoral defeat was on the cards for President Alberto Fernández, after the September primaries spelled a bad omen for his government and rocked the Peronist coalition, as Ignacio Portes explained in episode #170.
  • For the first time in Argentinian democratic history, Peronism has lost the Senate — which will have massive repercussions on the government’s ability to pass new legislation.
  • It will also undermine the president’s authority over his own administration. That began to happen with VP Cristina Kirchner forcing a cabinet reshuffle — which nevertheless spared Economy Minister Martín Guzmán, Buenos Aires’s liaison with the International Monetary Fund.
  • Alberto Fernández imposed harsh Covid restrictions on Argentinian citizens. But what was arguably the world’s longest lockdown didn’t avoid a Covid collapse late last year — which left many disgruntled with the government. 
  • But with vaccine rollouts advancing, Covid deaths have taken a nosedive — and restrictions are finally being lifted.

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