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Elections, Scandals, and Corruption: Milei in the 2023 Argentina Elections

There is a new president in office in Argentina. Elected in December 2023, Javier Milei led the presidential election in the country, winning the ballots by a significant margin. After a decisive win, Milei took office in January 2024, leading the Libertarian Party to victory.


Who is Javier Milei?

Born in the affluent Buenos Aires neighborhood of Palermo, Milei has a background in macroeconomics, economic growth, microeconomics, and mathematics for economists, along with experience teaching these subjects as a university professor in Argentina. His interest in economics sparked during his youth when Argentina experienced a collapse in its exchange rate during the 1980s. Today, Argentina faces ongoing challenges, including hyperinflation and a surging poverty rate, with over 40% of the population living in poverty. As of the conclusion of the 2023 financial year, inflation has exceeded 200%, sparking widespread concern across the nation regarding the potential resurgence of hyperinflation after three decades.


A self-proclaimed democrat and anarcho-capitalist, Milei aims to address Argentina's economy, despite the challenges evidenced by corruption and a weakened economy since the Argentine Great Depression (1998-2002), followed by persistent inflation. The country has faced a devastating economic crisis, and Milei's ambitious goal is to navigate these challenging circumstances and implement reforms that can steer Argentina towards economic stability and prosperity.


Javier Milei
Javier Milei wins the candidacy as president of Argentina, inaugurating office in January 2024.
Freedom Advances Political Party

Established in 2021 by Javier Milei, the political party operating under the name La Libertad Avanza (Freedom Advances) is intricately aligned with Milei's deeply held political ideologies. These ideologies encompass a spectrum of principles, including anarcho-capitalist and minarchist to paleolibertarian and liberal-libertarian values. Anarcho-capitalists advocate for a society without government intervention in the economy, emphasizing voluntary transactions and private property, while minarchists support a minimal state focused on protecting individual rights and maintaining basic law and order. Additionally, paleolibertarians prioritize cultural and social values alongside libertarian principles, seeking to preserve traditional values. Liberal-libertarians, on the other hand, promote a balance between individual freedoms and social justice within a framework of limited government involvement. This nuanced approach underscores the party's comprehensive commitment to a diverse set of libertarian principles. As a prominent right-wing figure, Javier Milei assumes a leadership role within the Libertarian party, embodying and championing these varied libertarian ideologies.


In this capacity, Milei advocates for policies and principles associated with right-leaning ideologies, emphasizing limited government intervention, free-market economic principles, and individual liberties. Milei's leadership within the Libertarian party underscores his commitment to advancing a political agenda rooted in classical liberal values, embracing a philosophy that prioritizes individual freedoms, free-market competition, and a minimalistic role for the state in economic and social affairs. Through his leadership, Milei seeks to shape the party's trajectory in alignment with these right-wing ideals, influencing political discourse and policy decisions in the context of libertarian principles.


The emergence of Milei as the most recent elected president of Argentina and his role as leader of the Freedom Advances Political Party could signal a shift towards more libertarian or market-oriented policies in the country. The impact on the country's political and economic landscape will depend on the specific policies and reforms advocated by Milei and his party. However, concerns arise regarding his capabilities to address these issues, given the country's history of corruption scandals involving greedy politicians and persistent economic turmoil. As Argentina grapples with these complexities, the alignment of Milei's economic vision and the nation's historical challenges adds a layer of intricacy to the ongoing narrative of Argentina's economic and political trajectory.


Argentine Peso
The Argentine Peso has served as the official currency of Argentina since 1992. It is denoted by the dollar sign ($) and is abbreviated as ARS.
Argentina's Economic Turmoil

In the early 2000s, Argentina made efforts to enhance competitiveness and financial stability during the Argentine Great Recession. These endeavors, involving domestic deflation and fiscal adjustments, proved unsuccessful. Despite seeking financial assistance through initiatives like the shield or blindaje and implementing a debt mega-swap, Argentina encountered its most severe economic crisis. The terms shield and blindaje indicate financial initiatives deployed during this crisis, with blindaje in 2000 seeking international assistance, primarily from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to address economic challenges and prevent a debt default. However, ongoing economic difficulties prompted the subsequent introduction of another financial package termed shield in 2001. Despite these initiatives aiming to stabilize the economy, Argentina ultimately faced a severe economic crisis, culminating in a massive sovereign default in 2001-2002.


Despite implementing substantial changes to strengthen the economy, Argentina's economic turmoil persistently endured. The country faced challenges in responding to the crisis, similar to those in contemporary Europe. Legal restrictions hindered currency devaluation, obstructing efforts to enhance competitiveness amidst worsening external conditions. Moreover, the economy's substantial financial dollarization, combined with the absence of a last-resort lender, left the financial system vulnerable, which was a drastic contrast with the role of the European Central Bank in Europe. As a result, Argentina struggled with the aftermath of unsuccessful economic revival attempts. Legal limitations hindered currency devaluation, and heightened financial dollarization increased vulnerability, culminating in a significant default on national debt.


This chart presents statistics highlighting the demographic and economic landscape of Argentina.

The elite class in Argentina plays a crucial role in economic control by exerting influence in major industries and financial institutions, shaping economic policies to favor their interests. This economic influence extends into politics, significantly impacting decision-making processes and potentially marginalizing broader societal needs in favor of elite interests. Argentina's economic challenges, stemming from unsuccessful recovery strategies and legal constraints, are mirrored in the influence of the elite class. These interactions intertwine economic and political power, emphasizing the need for a nuanced understanding of the interplay between economic policies and political decisions to ensure comprehensive societal well-being.


In 2023, Argentina experienced a staggering annual inflation of 211.4%, marking the highest rate in 32 years and surpassing even Venezuela, making it the highest inflation rate globally. In his inaugural address, Milei announced a tough plan to prevent hyperinflation. He warned that the initial impact would be negative on activity, jobs, wages, and the number of people in poverty. This message stirred frustration among the working class and industry workers in the country, especially considering that approximately 40% of the population is estimated to live in poverty. Within the initial weeks of his presidency, tens of thousands of Argentines flooded the streets of Buenos Aires to express their frustration with Milei and his administration.


Donald Trump and Javier Milei
Former U.S. President Donald Trump (left) and Argentine President Javier Milei (right).
The Political Resonance of Javier Milei and Donald Trump

Javier Milei has repeatedly been compared to former U.S. President Donald Trump due to various political and stylistic similarities. Like Trump, Milei is often characterized as a charismatic and outspoken figure who employs a populist communication style. Both politicians are known for their direct and unfiltered communication, often using bold language to convey their messages and connect with their respective bases. Additionally, Milei and Trump share a background in business, and their political rise has been fueled in part by their status as political outsiders challenging established political norms. Both have positioned themselves as anti-establishment figures, criticizing traditional political elites and institutions.


Moreover, Milei and Trump align in their advocacy for free-market principles, limited government intervention, and deregulation. Both emphasize economic prosperity and express skepticism toward certain aspects of globalization. While some may support these economic policies, others might be concerned about potential consequences for the country's economic state. Protesters may view Milei's alignment with Trump-like economic approaches as a threat to social and economic equality. Economic policies prioritizing free-market principles often come under scrutiny for potentially widening income inequality and negatively impacting vulnerable populations. The populist communication style shared by Milei and Trump, characterized by bold language and anti-establishment sentiments, could further polarize public opinion, contributing to demonstrations.


Workers and members of social organizations demonstrate a commemoration of December 20, 2001, and oppose the new president’s austerity measures. Juan Mabromata (AFP)
Protests Against The Presidency of Milei

In response to Javier Milei's presidency in Argentina, recent protests have emerged as a vocal expression of opposition. During these protests, a strong call for worker unity resonated amidst the crowd, reflecting the shared dissatisfaction with Milei's leadership. In this intense environment, some protesters assertively approached the police barrier, exclaiming insults at the riot police and displaying a preparedness for potential arrests. To further underscore their defiance and frustration, the sound of whistles used by the protesters could be heard across the city of Buenos Aires as police vans passed by on the streets. This surge of activism not only represents opposition to Milei's presidency but also serves as an active and visible expression of disagreement in the Argentine political scene. The protests could be a manifestation of concerns about the potential negative impact on employment, wages, and the overall well-being of the population, echoing frustrations expressed during the initial weeks of Milei's presidency.


This surge of activism not only represents opposition to Milei's presidency but also aligns with a historical tradition in Argentina. For decades, the use of cacerolazo, characterized by the loud banging of pots and pans, has been a prevalent method for citizens to express discontent and catch the attention of politicians. This type of loud protest, along with the use of whistles and organized chants, stands as a vocal and visible expression of disagreement within the political landscape of Argentina. The protests could be a manifestation of concerns about the potential negative impact on employment, wages, and the overall well-being of the population, echoing frustrations expressed during the initial weeks of Milei's presidency.


Argentina National Congress Building, Buenos Aires
The National Congress building in Buenos Aires is the seat of the Argentine parliament.
Conclusion

The ascent of Javier Milei to the presidency of Argentina and his leadership role in the Freedom Advances Political Party marks a significant shift in the country's political landscape. Rooted in libertarian principles, Milei's economic vision faces the significant challenges of addressing hyperinflation, poverty rates, and a history of economic turmoil. The resonance between Milei and former U.S. President Donald Trump, evident in their communication styles and economic policies, has sparked both support and opposition. The recent protests, characterized by a call for worker unity, underscore the depth of discontent with Milei's leadership, with concerns raised about potential socioeconomic inequalities. As Argentina grapples with its complex economic and political realities, Milei's presidency unfolds against the backdrop of historical challenges, requiring a nuanced understanding of the interplay between economic policies, political decisions, and societal well-being. The outcome of Milei's ambitious economic reforms and their impact on Argentina's trajectory remain crucial aspects to monitor in the ongoing narrative of the country's political and economic evolution.


Bibliography

  1. "Argentina's Annual Inflation Soars to 211.4%, the Highest in 32 Years." El País, January 11, 2024, https://english.elpais.com/economy-and-business/2024-01-11/argentinas-annual-inflation-soars-to-2114-the-highest-in-32-years.html

  2. "Argentines Vote in Election That Could Lead Trump-Admiring Populist to the Presidency." CNBC World Politics. November 19, 2023. https://www.cnbc.com/2023/11/19/argentines-vote-in-election-that-could-lead-trump-admiring-populist-to-the-presidency.html

  3. Sam, Cedric and Tobias, Manuela. "Argentina's 2023 Presidential Election." Bloomberg Politics, November 19, 2023. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2023-argentina-election/ 

  4. Centenera, Mar. "Tens of Thousands of Argentines Protest Against Milei Amidst Strong Security Measures." El País, December 21, 2023, https://english.elpais.com/international/2023-12-21/tens-of-thousands-of-argentines-protest-against-milei-amidst-strong-security-measures.html

  5. International Monetary Fund. "Argentina: 2001-2002 Economic Collapse - Causes, Consequences, and Lessons." Independent Evaluation Office, 2004. https://www.imf.org/external/np/ieo/2004/arg/eng/pdf/report.pdf

  6. "IMF unlocks $4.7bn for Argentina amid economic crisis, Milei austerity cuts." Al Jazeera. January 11, 2024. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/1/11/imf-unlocks-4-7bn-for-argentina-amid-economic-crisis-milei-austerity-cuts](https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/1/11/imf-unlocks-4-7bn-for-argentina-amid-economic-crisis-milei-austerity-cuts)

  7. Kiguel, Miguel. "Argentina’s 2001 Economic and Financial Crisis: Lessons for Europe." Brookings Institution. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/11_argentina_kiguel.pdf

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