“They are afraid, the lefties are afraid”: the battle cry of the Argentine “libertarians”

The economist Javier Gerardo Milei on August 3, 2021.Twitter @JMilei

Javier Milei (Buenos Aires, 50 years old) wears curly black hair. He says that to dry it after the daily shower, just open the window of his car and let the “invisible hand” comb it. The same invisible hand is the one he fervently defends when he speaks of the market and liberalism. Milei considers the State “an enemy” and socialism responsible for “having killed 150 million people.” He is an economist, but also a provocateur who heats up political television programs. Say what Donald Trump “I was on the right track,” he assures that he participated in the economic program of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and proclaims himself “libertarian.” He yells, insults and fixes his eyes without blinking on the one who asks him an uncomfortable question. Considered a funny character, he is now a source of concern for politicians. Milei wants to be a national deputy in the november elections, and everything indicates that he will achieve it.

More information

“They are afraid, the lefties are afraid,” his followers shout during the candidate’s walk through Belgrano, a middle and upper-middle class neighborhood in the north of the city of Buenos Aires. Most are under 20 years of age. It happens that Milei sweeps among the youngest, whom she summons through social networks. “Today the revolution is liberal,” he says in each interview, of which there are many, to explain the profile of his voters. “Before, to be a rebel was to be on the left and now the the state is from the left. That is why the youngest, who are rebellious, embrace the opposite of the ideas of the left. In addition, they have been indoctrinated in the educational system for less time, which in Argentina forms slaves of the state religion ”. His candidate for councilor in the Argentine capital is only 18 years old and has not finished high school yet.

The polls give Milei between 5% and 12% of voting intention, enough for her candidacy to exceed the 1.5% floor required to survive in the primary, open and mandatory elections (PASO) that will be held on September 15 . Then the final race will come on November 14, when he will surely get a seat. “Milei’s vote is a vote of protest, of people unhappy with the economy,” says Victoria Murillo, director of the Institute for Latin American Studies at Columbia University, USA. [una alternativa de extrema derecha en Argentina ], “Milei’s characteristic is stridency and it is presented as anti-establishment. It turns out that today rebellion is liberalism, ”he says.

Milei shoots her ideas like darts, in short sentences. He says that “the three basic rights are life, liberty and property” and that “taxes are a hindrance to slavery.” He declares himself against abortion, in favor of unions between couples of the same sex “because marriage is a contract”, defender of the bearing of arms “because it removes the monopoly of violence from the State” and is willing to free drug use : “If you want to commit suicide, I have no problem.” In his campaign rallies he promises to “end the political caste”, from which he feels alien. Peronism, and much more in its Kirchnerist (left) current, is everything that Milei hates. And when he talks about the right-wing opposition, gathered around the figure of Mauricio Macri, calls it “good manners Kirchnerism”, “populism cool“Or” yellow socialism “, in reference to the colors of the coalition.

Meanwhile, Milei calls for a moral war. “We cannot continue to embrace the moral values ​​of socialism, which are envy and resentment, unequal treatment before the law and robbery and even murder. When Argentina embraced the idea of ​​freedom, with the Constitution of 1853, in 35 years we became the richest country in the world, “he said on the newspaper’s television channel. The nation.

Join now EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits

Subscribe here

The Argentine political system is today structured in two great coalitions, contrary to most of the region. As long as the independent candidates have monopolized the Constitutional Assembly in Chile or an unknown rural school teacher named Pedro Castillo is president of Peru, the Frente de Todos (Peronist) and Juntos por el Cambio (center-right liberal), dominate the politics of the South American country.

Both coalitions have served as firewalls to the anti-system outbreaks and have managed to maintain social peace, but “we may now be at the beginning of something complicated, because it is possible that its effectiveness will not continue indefinitely,” warns the political scientist Eduardo Fidanza, director of Poliarquía. . “That Argentina, with its poverty and inflation, has not generated protests has to do with Peronism, unions, the Church and social movements. But these antibodies may not be absolute, “he adds.

Argentina did not give in to figures like Milei not even in the crisis of the corralito of 2001 and 2002. And when in 2015 the Kirchnerist model ran out, the system alternated with the macrismo. The economic failure ejected Macri from power after just one term and Argentines once again embraced Kirchnerist Peronism. Victoria Murillo says that “these new coalitions [surgidas con el nuevo siglo] they have organized themselves more ideologically than was tradition in the Argentine system ”, which historically housed all possible extremes in the same party, Peronism. As “Kirchnerism has moved the gravitational center of Peronism to the left” there have been loopholes so that figures like Milei’s “have a chance.”

It happens that decades of economic crisis have undermined the convening power of traditional Peronism, based on the unions. Unemployment and informality have taken power away from these top-down organizations. “Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia are organized in two poles”, says Murillo, “but it does not mean that with changes in the social structure the system does not explode.” So is there room in Argentina for an anti-establishment candidate, Bolsonaro-style? “For now,” says Eduardo Fidanza, “there are systemic challenges and discussions about the nature of democracy, but basic rules such as transparency of elections or alternation remain.” Murillo agrees that these legislative elections and the presidential elections of 2023 will not elevate an anti-system, but warns: “I don’t know if I will be able to say the same in 2027.”

Follow all the international information at Facebook and Twitter, o en our weekly newsletter.