The rise and fall of Javier Milei, the star of the liberal far-right in Argentina

Javier Milei speaks during a campaign rally in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November 2021
Javier Milei speaks during a campaign rally in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November 2021Anita Pouchard SerraBloomberg

The definitive landing of the ultraliberal right as a political force in Argentina threatens to run aground at its best moment. On June 10, the party headed by deputy Javier Milei prepared its first rally in the province of Buenos Aires to show its strength. But it all ended in a timid event that dissolved in the cold of the southern winter. What should have been a mass bath for the presidential candidate of La Libertad Avanza did not gather more than 1,500 people in a stadium with a capacity for ten times more. The call-up fiasco sparked a battle within his party that has been the talk of the media all week and has left Milei alone facing his biggest fear. The economist who burst into politics as a deputy promising to “kick the ass out” of the “political caste” gets tangled up like everyone else in the more traditional partisan fights.

A third of the 47 million Argentines live in the province of Buenos Aires. The outskirts of the capital, where the richest shut themselves up in private neighborhoods and the popular classes define elections, is a totem of national politics. Who wins it, governs. Former President Mauricio Macri knows this, whose gubernatorial candidate, María Eugenia Vidal, won the province in 2015 and broke almost 30 years of Peronist hegemony; and the vice president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who has her main electoral base there, knows it. Milei, who jumped from the television studios to Congress last November shouting “they are afraid, lefties are afraid”, is also clear now that she wants to be president.

The failure to call his first rally in the suburbs of Buenos Aires has uncovered the pot of tensions experienced by a new party that is racing against the clock to arm itself throughout the country before the 2023 elections. On one side, his sister Karina , which is nicknamed Milei the boss and who does not hesitate to qualify as “the great architect” of their presentations; on the other, Carlos Maslatón, a liberal, anti-quarantine lawyer and bitcoin expert who defines himself as a “pointer in his own right” for the libertarian leader. Maslatón accused Karina Milei of being a “cheap and ignorant dictator” and warned that her leadership will lead the party to an “irreversible catastrophe.” He then spent the last week explaining the crisis… with a Peronist analogy.

The last government of Juan Domingo Perón began in 1973 after 18 years of exile and ended with his death a year later. The Peronism that was built in his absence was broad-spectrum, with the leftist guerrilla on one side and the ultra-right on the other. Those antagonistic groups waited for an older and frail Perón to return to the country with his third wife, Isabel Martínez, and a sinister personal secretary: José López Rega. The Wizard, as they called him, was a minister in the government of both. From there he was connected with esoteric groups and was the creator of the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance, the Triple A, a far-right paramilitary organization in charge of eliminating leftist opponents. The trust of the Peróns erected López Rega as a shadow president during the hesitant 20 months of the Government of Isabel Perón, the widow and successor, marked by the economic crisis and the violent military pressure that ended in the 1976 coup. Maslatón, Karina Milei represents the “lopezreguismo” that alienates the leader before the bases.

While one of the most visible spokesmen of the libertarian right explains to any microphone the internal battle in the keys of the enemy, Karina Milei’s space remains silent. Javier Milei spent the last week in Brazil, where he participated in a forum with Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of the Brazilian far-right president, and former Chilean candidate José Antonio Kast, and these days he was in Colombia, where he supported the campaign of businessman Rodolfo Hernández, rival of Gustavo Petro in the second round this Sunday. Outside the country, Milei has already chosen. “I report my sister. She is the person who knows me best, “he warned in a television interview a few weeks ago. “One of the jokes we make is that I did all this so that she could be first lady.”

Argentine deputy Javier Milei with his sister Karina and Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of the Brazilian president, this week in São Paulo.
Argentine deputy Javier Milei with his sister Karina and Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of the Brazilian president, this week in São Paulo.RR.SS.

Karina Milei’s ally is Carlos Kikuchi, former adviser to Domingo Cavallo, the economy minister who imposed the convertibility of a peso equal to a dollar in the 1990s. Both are in charge of the national armed party. Without a structure to face general elections, they have sought allies among their putative brothers, such as Mauricio Macri’s right. Milei appears keen to forge an alliance with the former president, despite calling him a “socialist” in the past. She also the reactionary extreme right.

The alliance with the Republican Force, a conservative party in the north of the country founded by a military coup leader, is not the only controversy that Milei has gotten into in the last month. A few days after the massacre of 19 children and two teachers in a Texas school, he defended the free carrying of weapons. She later defended the sale of organs, considering it “another market”. “Why can’t I decide about my body?”, She asks herself, while she rejects free abortion “because there is a property problem”.

Javier Milei won two seats in Congress in the legislative elections last November. La Libertad Avanza reached 17% of the votes in Buenos Aires and became the third force behind the great coalitions of the Government and the opposition, Peronism and Macrism. After the hectic last weeks, the intention to vote for him has dropped to 13% and half of the country has a negative image of him, according to a survey published by the newspaper The nation. A year before the elections, the oldest newspaper in the country wonders if the local Trump phenomenon will be able to remain a disruptive force. The answer was asked to the guru of the national right, the consultant Jaime Durán Barba: “The white horse has to run only once, because if he does not get stained.”

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