Argentina on Sunday elected the ultra-right-wing candidate Javier Milei as president and is entering a period of deep uncertainty. The economist, who will take office on December 10, will have to contend with a serious financial crisis, high levels of poverty, minimal reserves, and pending payments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Milei has proposed reducing the functions of state to a minimum and has placed his trust in the market alone solving Argentina’s problems through the development of trade and exports. He also proposes a revision of the values of equality and social justice that have structured Argentine society since the beginning of the last century.
Towards the end of the campaign, Milei, leader of La Libertad Avanza, toned down his most controversial ideas, such as the free bearing of arms, the end of social plans, or the free sale of organs. These are his proposals on economy, security, foreign policy, health, education, and human rights:
Milei proposes an “integral reform” so that Argentina can return to being “the powerful country” of the beginning of the 20th century. The “paternalistic state,” believes the ultra-libertarian, is the root of all evil and as such he intends to strip it down. Among his plans are reducing the number of ministries from 18 to eight, “progressively” removing social assistance plans and cutting retirement and pension funds. His star economic proposals are dollarization and “burning down” the Central Bank. Milei also promises a “deep adjustment” that “will be paid for by the public sector” and to bring to end “in three months” the cepo cambiario system, which restricts the purchase and sale of foreign currency.
Security emerged as a key element in the electoral campaign ahead of the presidential primaries, when an 11-year-old girl was attacked by two delinquents and died in hospital. La Libertad Avanza dedicated the most extensive section of its electoral platform to this issue. Milei intends to investigate the reduction of the minimum age of legal responsibility, the prohibition of entry into the country of “foreigners with criminal records” and the deregulation of the “legal” firearms market, a measure which sparked controversy during the electoral campaign and which he subsequently clarified. In addition, he proposes to equip, train, and provide technology to the security forces to give them back their “professional and moral authority” and to adopt a policy of “zero tolerance” against crime. Milei’s running mate, Victoria Villarruel, promotes the idea that the Argentine Armed Forces should carry out internal security tasks, a task they are currently forbidden from performing, and has promised that the military budget will increase from 0.6% to 2% of GDP.
Milei is aligned with the United States, Israel, and “the free world” and stated during his campaign that he would break with Brazil and China — Argentina’s two main trading partners — if elected. During the last presidential debate, however, he said that this was “false” and got tangled up in trying to explain himself: “I deeply believe in opening up to international trade. However, I also believe that the state should not intervene in trade relations. It is a matter for the private sector.” Milei has also stated that he will pull Argentina out of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) and rejected the country’s entry into the BRICS group of emerging economies. The president-elect has also confronted the Vatican, stating that Pope Francis is a “filthy lefty” and the “representative of the Evil One,” but then later affirmed that if the pontiff visits Argentina he will receive him “with the honors of a head of state” and “of the spiritual head of the Church.”
Education and Health
Two of the ministries that Milei promised to shut down are Education and Health, which together with those of Social Development and Labor will be merged into one, called “Human Capital,” as detailed in his electoral platform. The ultra-right candidate proposed creating a “system of educational vouchers” and to deliver the education budget to parents “instead of giving it to the ministry.” He also suggests eliminating the compulsory nature of comprehensive sex education. In public health, Milei wants a shift towards an insurance system that would stop subsidizing supply — i.e. hospitals — and finance demand — i.e. patients. In this section of its electoral program, La Libertad Avanza also defends the protection of a child “from conception,” thus preventing the voluntary interruption of a pregnancy, which has been a legal right since 2020.
Democracy and human rights
During the campaign, Milei attacked some of the basic consensuses built after the end of the military dictatorship (1976-1983). The ultra-rightist and his future vice-president, Victoria Villarruel, question many of the agreements reached during the democratic transition and believe that in Argentina there is a “fraud” surrounding human rights. Both deny state terrorism during the dictatorship, which has been recognized by the justice system, and instead maintain that the systematic plan promoted by the military juntas was “a war” in which “excesses” were committed. Milei’s running mate also promotes what she calls “complete memory” and recently proposed dismantling the Museum and Site of Memory at the former ESMA naval academy, where the dictatorship’s largest detention and extermination center operated and which was declared a World Heritage Site in September.
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