Argentina’s Trump? Far-Right Javier Milei Wins Presidency with Echoes of Past Dictatorship
Written by GRB on 21/11/2023
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
We end today’s show in Argentina, where the far-right libertarian Javier Milei has been elected president. He’s been compared to Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. He won Sunday’s election with 56% of the vote, defeating the centrist Peronist candidate Sergio Massa. Milei is a climate crisis denier who has proposed banning abortion, easing restrictions on guns, vowing to shut down Argentina’s central bank, replacing the nation’s currency with the U.S. dollar. Milei has also questioned the death toll and crimes committed by the Argentine military dictatorship from 1976 to ’83. He spoke from Buenos Aires Sunday night.
PRESIDENT–ELECT JAVIER MILEI: [translated] Argentina’s situation is critical. The changes our country needs are drastic. There’s no room for gradualism. There’s no room for tepidity. There’s no room for half-measures.
AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where we’re joined by two guests. Franco Metaza is director of international relations for the Argentine Senate of the Republic.
And we’re going to begin with you. Can you talk about the significance of this victory? I mean, months ago, Milei was hardly known to the general population of Argentina, became famous as he carried a chainsaw with him and would use it during his speeches. Talk about the significance of that and what he represents.
FRANCO METAZA: Hi, Amy. Very pleased to greet you.
Well, what Milei implies for Argentina today is uncertainty. He got to win the election with some promises. You mentioned one of them. And the main one is the dollarization, to change our current currency for the U.S. dollar. So, he made great expectations in the population. People want to earn their salary in dollars in the next month. And that would be impossible. So, what is one of the main issues? The uncertainty and the expectations for the U.S. dollar.
And the other thing that I want to underline is the human rights. We are in a country that has a very deep history for the dictatorship we had. It was one of the most terrorific ones in the region. And we could got over them and make justice for the victims, and the genocides are in jail now. And he wants to take them out of jail. So, those are the main issues we are experiencing these days here.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Franco Metaza, could you talk about why the incumbent Peronist coalition, a center-left coalition, lost this election? What factors do you think contributed to that? And also, how you expect that Milei will be able to govern, since he doesn’t have a majority in the Legislature?
FRANCO METAZA: Well, I think we lost because of the inflation. When one analyzes all the elections in Argentina, they always have to do with the economy. And we have a very high inflation. What did cause that inflation? Well, it began when the IMF gave us — not us, but the right-wing government of Mauricio Macri — the biggest loan in the history of IMF. They gave us $45 billion. And that’s even three times the amount they are giving to Ukraine to recover from the war. And we were not in a war. Even the pandemic hasn’t happened then. It was a political loan. And that make us — that make our country to pay a lot of money per month, and that is extremely difficult for our economy. So, we lost because of the inflation caused by the IMF.
And the second question you made is very interesting, because he doesn’t have majority, but he has a political association with Mauricio Macri, so they will get more senates and more representatives than they have today. And that’s very important, because he got to win the election saying that he was the new, that he came up with new people, not the old politician, not the traditional elite, and finally, he will be part of this elite. He says — he said today who is going to be his ministry of economy, and it was the same ministry of economy of our former President Fernando de la Rúa, who ended with a crisis of 2001 that you might remember, and it was the same president of the central bank of Mauricio Macri, the previous right-wing government that lost the election with us in 2019.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring Verónica Gago into this conversation, feminist activist, researcher at the Public National Council of Research in Argentina, author of Feminist International: How to Change Everything. Can you talk about the man who will be the new president, Milei’s discourse during his campaign against feminism, against the LGBTQ community, now demanding an abortion ban in Argentina? Talk about it all.
VERÓNICA GAGO: Yes. Hi, Amy. Thank you for having me.
Yes, I want to remark about Milei present himself as a novelty, but he can’t get rid of the past, of the dictatorship and neoliberal agenda of the ’90s. So, I think that this is a very important point.
Milei is an opponent of abortion rights. During the campaign, he said he was going to call for a referendum to overturn the legalization of abortion that we achieved in 2020 during the pandemic. There is a debate whether that it is possible or not, besides needing an act of Congress to call it, and for the result to be pending, there is no agreement that it can be held. What is clear is that he aims to take away the legitimacy of the right to abortion. And it is also linked to the fact that abortions in Argentina are performed free of charge in public health institutions that Milei wants to privatize.
Also, it is linked to his plan to ban sex education in schools, as he considers this to be propaganda for cultural Marxism and gender ideology. Again, this is a proposal against public education that he wants also to privatize. Argentina, you know, is a pioneer in the promotion of LGBTQ rights, especially in Latin American. In 2010, the country has been the first in the region to legalize equal marriage. A crucial action was also the enactment of gender identity law in 2012, which allowed people to change their gender on official documents based on self-determination. Milei speaks of these rights as privileges and has spoken out against a law that ensures a job quota for trans people in the state achieved in 2021. He speaks of LGBTQ lobby, which, along with the climate movement and the abortion rights, he talks about a sort of socialist agenda. And he has already said he will close the Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity.
So, he has signaled the feminist and queer movement as a main enemy. And also it is very linked with the human rights movement that Franco was talking about. So I think that it’s, well, a very dark scenario for grassroots movements, for feminist organizations. But I think also that Argentina is a country with a very strong history of resistance, a very strong history of massive demonstrations, and I think that we will confront this political program.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Verónica Gago, could you talk, as well, about Milei’s stance on firearms in the country and also his stance on climate change?
VERÓNICA GAGO: Yes. He proposes to reduce gun restrictions. He argues that countries, as the United States, that have no restrictions have much less crime. This is demonstrably not true. However, it is part of making security a private matter for armed men, I think. He wants to capitalize on citizen concerns about insecurity. As Franco was saying, the inflation is our main problem nowadays. And, of course, the feeling of insecurity that that kind of inflation is producing in your daily life is respond with this idea of guns and security in very sexist, racist terms.
So, the other things that you were saying, he’s a denialist of climate crisis. The climate crisis is, he says, a product of Marxist ideas. He dismisses climate change as a socialist lie. And he rejects everything that comes from that idea. Milei has an idea of extreme deregulation of markets, and that includes the necessity to deny climate change and its consequences.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, the issue of the Dirty War and his questioning of the number of people who died during the dictatorship from ’76 to ’83, Verónica?
VERÓNICA GAGO: Yes. This is a completely important issue, because his vice president, Victoria Villarruel, is a denialist of state terrorism. She whitewashed genocide and also demanded the restoration of compulsory military service. She’s a defender of the military accused of crimes against humanity during the dictatorship. And in doing so, both has attacked — they have attacked the popular consensus of human rights struggles led by the Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, who mobilized for those disappeared during the dictatorship and whose ongoing resistance is part of also feminist movement. So, I think that this is part of our becoming struggles.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you both for being with us. Verónica Gago is feminist activist, researcher at the Public National Council of Research in Argentina, author of Feminist International: How to Change Everything, and Franco Metaza, director of international relations for the Argentine Senate of the Republic, both speaking to us from Buenos Aires. We’ll be doing a Spanish post-show and posting it on our Spanish website. You can check it out there. Go to democracynow.org.
Democracy Now! is produced with Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud, Sonyi Lopez. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.