With the recent election of economist Javier Milei to the presidency of Argentina with lawyer Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as vice president, there are many concerns about the future of the country. Milei’s campaign was a mix of socially conservative culture fights and far right libertarian economics, the impact of which will remain unknown for Milei’s constituents until after he begins to put policies into effect.
To better understand the situation, the Catalyst consulted with two locally based Argentinians who could help explain the history behind the election, why Milei won against all odds compared to his chances earlier this year and what their concerns are for the future of their country. Kelsier, a self-described Argentine Marxist-Leninist and Mishka De Caro, an Argentine philosophy and game development teacher, sat down with a Catalyst reporter in separate meetings to discuss these issues.
According to Kelsier, the election of Milei appears to be the result of anger caused by economic struggles in Argentina going back as far as 2011. Kelsier explained that “during the four years of President Macri and his neoliberal policies, which included lowering public spending, removing the dollar restrictions and making people believe that a rain of foreign investment will solve all of our problems, a new crisis arises.A crisis openly criticized by Javier Milei, who begins to form his image of [an} economist shouting very angry on television programs.”
The anger of the younger generations was essential in Milei’s victory in a nation where the voting age is 16. The progressive news organization Pagina12 reported that before the election, a poll had shown that 49 percent of surveyed voters between the ages of 16 and 29 were planning to vote for him. “A lot of this election was won with angry voting,” De Caro said.
In the area of human rights, De Caro voiced concerns surrounding the future of safe abortions and LGBTQ+ rights/protections in Argentina. De Caro said he feels as if Argentina is “going in the same direction as the United States,” in terms of the recent overturning of Roe v Wade and legislation such as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that was passed in Florida. What was especially concerning to him was the friendship between Fernandez de Kirchner and the military officials who were in power during the last dictatorship from 1976 to 1985. “They were torturing and disappearing people, killing and raping them. . . She is not just apologetic about them, she is in favor of what they did. . . It was a war against students and leftists.”
While American reporting typically reaches for analogs with the election of former president Donald Trump, this is a disingenuous comparison that doesn’t grasp the reality of what Milei’s election means. The way De Caro described it is that “Trump is friends with the Nazis, okay, but he is not the Nazi candidate.” There are several public ministries which Milei intends to either reduce to secretariats, make private entities or remove entirely. De Caro, whose line of work is tied to the Ministry of Culture in Game Development, had already felt the effects of the ministry being turned into a secretariat during the previous administration. “It hinders your work. . . being a secretariat implies that you won’t have as much budget from the government to do actions and that you depend on another Ministry.”
The planned privatization of the national television and radio organizations has brought justified fears over restrictions on freedom of expression in the media. Milei plans to cut almost all funding for communications but keep the ones Milei deems neutral or unbiased journalists. Those who will still receive funding will have helped him get into office, “which will be his friends,” according to De Caro.
A very uncertain future is ahead for Argentina. A new administration is entering office with grand ideas on how to privatize the state that will certainly affect the most disenfranchised. As with Trump, Milei is an example of how “angry voters” are championing the far right into power.