Milei vows economic overhaul
Bangkok Post Public Company Limited
BUENOS AIRES: Libertarian outsider Javier Milei swept to victory in Argentina’s presidential election on Sunday, vowing to halt decades of economic decline as the country reels from tripledigit inflation and record poverty. The self-described “anarcho-capitalist” pulled off a massive upset after surging from obscurity to oust the populist Peronist coalition, which has long dominated Argentine politics. With 55.7% of the vote, Mr Milei thumped his rival, Economy Minister Sergio Massa, who scored 44% of the vote and rapidly conceded defeat. “Today begins the reconstruction of Argentina. Today begins the end of Argentina’s decline,” Mr Milei said in his victory speech, where he also vowed “a limited government, respect for private property and free trade. The model of decadence has come to an end. There is no way back”. Latin America’s third-biggest economy has suffered decades of crises under interventionist governments big on welfare that resort to money printing to finance spending, fuelling inflation, while borrowing heavily only to default on their debt. Access to dollars is strictly controlled, leading to a thriving black market for greenbacks, and analysts warn the peso is ripe for a sharp devaluation. “There is no room for gradualism, there is no room for lukewarmness or half-measures,” warned Mr Milei. Mr Milei’s main platform has been a plan to ditch the ailing peso for the US dollar and “dynamite” the Central Bank to do away with the “cancer of inflation”. Thousands of Milei supporters waved flags and chanted “freedom” as they celebrated outside his campaign headquarters. “We are tired of Peronism. Milei is an unknown, but better a madman than a thief,” said 50-year-old writer Nacho Larranaga, wearing the blue-and-white Argentina flag as a cape. Mr Milei, a 53-year-old economist with wild hair and thick sideburns, has drawn comparisons with former US president Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro for his abrasive style and controversial remarks. Both former presidents congratulated him on social media. “This is the change that us young people want,” said Juan Ignacio Gómez. “I am not afraid of Milei, I am afraid my dad won’t be able to pay his rent. The Argentine peso isn’t worth a thing,” said the 17-year-old. Mr Milei is against abortion, progun, vowed to cut ties with Argentina’s key trading partners China and Brazil, insulted Pope Francis, questioned the death toll under Argentina’s brutal dictatorship, and says humans are not behind climate change.