Javier Milei, an outspoken libertarian economist, was sworn in as president of Argentina on Sunday, promising drastic reforms to pull the country out of economic crisis. Milei campaigned on slashing government spending and criticized the political establishment as corrupt. His rise has prompted comparisons to other right-wing populists.
Background On Argentina’s Economic Troubles
Argentina has struggled with high inflation, currency crashes and debt crises for decades. The country has one of the world’s highest inflation rates, currently around 100%, which has led to widespread poverty. Many blame excessive government spending and money printing by the central bank.
Previous leader Alberto Fernández pursued unorthodox policies like price freezes to curb inflation, but these were seen as ineffective. Argentina has had to repeatedly restructure its debt after defaulting numerous times.
The repeated economic crashes have caused Argentines to lose faith in the peso. Most try to earn, save and make big purchases using US dollars or other foreign currencies whenever possible.
Milei Ran On “Shock Therapy” To Stabilize The Economy
Milei, an economist from the University of Buenos Aires, rose to fame giving libertarian lectures broadcast on YouTube. These racked up millions of views from crisis-weary Argentines.
He refers to himself as “right-wing” and an “anarcho-capitalist” who wants minimal state intervention in the economy. Milei promises to slash taxes, eliminate regulations, privatize state enterprises and cut the number of public employees in half. He also wants to abolish Argentina’s central bank and replace the peso with the US dollar or cryptocurrencies to stop reckless money printing.
Critics have called his proposals “shock therapy” that could severely deepen Argentina’s recession and unemployment. But his supporters are desperate for a solution and pinning their hopes on Milei’s ideas stabilizing prices and reviving growth. Over 70% list the economy as their top concern.
|Key Policy Positions
|Dollarize economy, slash taxes and spending, privatize state firms, replace central bank with algorithm
Comparisons Made To Trump And Other Populists
The outspoken Milei plays up his image as an outsider battling the political establishment. His uniqueness intrigued voters – Milei has shoulder-length hair unlike most politicians, plays the guitar and rides a motorcycle.
His rise has prompted comparisons to other right-wing populist leaders. Some point to similarities with Donald Trump – both positioned themselves as anti-elite outsiders to gain support. Milei embraces the “chainsaw” as his symbol, threatening to take a chainsaw to bureaucracy, high taxes and regulations.
Observers also note parallels to Jair Bolsonaro in neighboring Brazil. Both promote “family values” and oppose abortion and transgender rights. However, Milei says he disagrees with Bolsonaro’s military background and centralizing approach.
Questions Over How Milei Would Govern
There are open questions over what kind of president Milei will actually be, as some of his policy positions appear to shift frequently. He formed an electoral alliance with a conservative party to broaden his appeal and has already dialed back some promises.
Some ask whether Milei genuinely believes in libertarian ideals or is just being opportunistic to gain votes from desperate Argentines. There is uncertainty if his economic proposals are even feasible to implement.
Critics worry Milei’s attacks on democratic institutions could lead to authoritarianism. But others counter that democratic checks in Argentina are strong enough to restrain any overreaches.
Foreign Policy Changes Also Expected Under Milei
Milei is likely to shift Argentina’s foreign policy approach, especially regarding the United States, China and international organizations. Observers expect Argentina to align more closely with the US under his leadership.
Milei plans to pull Argentina out of the leftist regional bodies CELAC and UNASUR as well as the Bolivarian Alliance created by Venezuela and Cuba. He wants greater integration instead with the market-friendly Pacific Alliance trade bloc of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.
Regarding China, Milei may need to soften his anti-Beijing tone from the campaign. China is Argentina’s second largest trade partner after Brazil, buying increasing agricultural commodities and lithium while exporting manufactured goods. An adversarial stance could jeopardize this critical commercial relationship.
Supporters Place High Hopes In Milei While Critics Voice Concerns
At his inauguration, Milei reiterated his core promise to stabilize prices, saying “we are going to end inflation which is the tax of the poor.” He also thanked supporters, saying “this is just the beginning of a new era in Argentina.”
His young supporters place immense hopes that Milei can pull the country out of its downward economic spiral. But opposition figures worried about democratic backsliding plan protests against any overreaches.
With an opposition-controlled Congress and skeptical international investors, Milei faces huge challenges translating his radical reform vision into practice. Most experts believe Argentina’s deep-rooted economic troubles cannot be solved overnight by any one leader.
But Milei’s inauguration marks a pivotal moment, with his presidency set to have an enormous impact on Argentina for good or for ill. Whether his promised “revolution” can actually fix the country’s chronic problems or sends its economy into freefall will soon become clear.
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