Who is Javier Milei, Argentina’s next president who wants to scrap local currency, eliminate central bank?

Controversial economist Javier Milei, a far-right libertarian outsider in Argentina’s politics, is set to be the country’s next president. In the presidential election held on November 19, ‘the lion’ – as Milei prefers to call himself – secured 56 percent of the votes.

Milei’s ascent to power is expected to shake the political landscape of Argentina, which has been historically influenced by the socialism in Latin America. 

The 53-year-old has not only promised to tighten the fiscal expenditures – seen by critics as a tight overhaul of the welfare schemes – but has went a step ahead by promising to scrap the local currency and shutting down the central bank.

Here’s a look at who Javier Milei is.

Until a few years ago, Milei was a prominent expert featuring on TV news shows, who critiqued the lack of fiscal discipline and condemned the political class for failing to improve the economic condition of the masses.

But in 2021, he took the political plunge and was elected as a lawmaker, on the symbol of his own political party – Libertad Avanza (Freedom Advances).

In August this year, he shocked political pundits in South America by emerging as the candidate with the highest vote share in the primary election. He secured 30.5 percent of the votes, higher as compared to 28 percent bagged by the main conservative coalition and 27 percent secured by the ruling Peronist coalition.

In the run-up to the presidential poll contest, Milei drew headlines worldover with his “anarcho-capitalist” views. He has proposed to replace the local currency peso with the US dollar, and shut down the central bank in a bid to prevent politicians from “printing more money”.

His proposed economic pills struck a chord with the voters, who are facing the brunt of a triple digit inflation. The rate of inflation has topped 140 percent, resulting in a cost of living crisis for various Argentinians. Four-out-ten persons in the country are reeling under poverty, a Reuters report said, adding that the country is the International Monetary Fund’s largest debtor, with an outstanding $44 billion loan program.

Opposes feminism, abortion

Apart from his economic policies, Milei has also taken a far-right stand on social issues. Labelled by critics as anti-feminist, the president-elect is also known for his vociferous opposition to abortion.

While abortion was made legal in Argentina in recent years, Milei, during his campaign trail, proposed to hold a plebiscite to determine if the right to abortion could be repealed.

Milei also opposes the viewpoint – agreed upon by most of the world leaders – that human actions are responsible for climate change. “It’s another one of the lies of socialism,” a release issued by the Centre for Economic and Policy Research quoted him as saying during an interview. “There is a cycle of temperatures … a cyclical behavior … and therefore all the policies that blame humans for climate change are false,” he reportedly added.

“The Trump of America” is what some of Milei’s critics, as well as a significant section of his supporters, refer to him as his views resemble that of the former US president on an array of issues.

Milei, himself, has publicly stated that he is an admirer of Donald Trump. At several of his election rallies, his supporters have worn caps that stated ‘Make Argentina Great Again’ – a replica of the ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan used by Trump.

Soccer player, singer in early life

During his early youth, Melei was an avid football player. He served as the goalkeeper in Chacarita soccer club’s youth division. 

Apart from devoting time for soccer, he was a music-lover. Melei played the role of lead singer for Everest, a Rolling Stones cover band. The hyperinflation of 1980s, however, forced him to change his career choices, and he began studying economics, a report in NBC said.

As an economist, Melei went on to work with Corporación America, one of the country’s leading business groups that manages most of the airports. He worked as the chief economist of Corporación till entering electoral politics in 2021.

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Updated: 21 Nov 2023, 12:03 AM IST

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