Buenos Aires – November 21, 2023
Argentines find themselves caught between hope and nervous anticipation as Javier Milei, a libertarian political outsider promising radical economic reforms, clinched a decisive victory over Peronist government rival Sergio Massa. The election outcome marks a significant shift for Argentina, grappling with soaring inflation, restrictive capital controls, widespread poverty, and an impending recession.
Milei, a charismatic former TV pundit often likened to the styles of former “U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian President JairBolsonaro,” is set to assume office on December 10. Despite his recent entry into politics, Milei harnessed voter discontent with the existing status quo to secure a notable win.
The streets of Buenos Aires witnessed a blend of jubilation and uncertainty as Milei’s supporters gathered at the iconic Obelisk to celebrate his victory on Sunday night. The atmosphere reflected the magnitude of change expected under Milei’s leadership.
Guillermo Toledo, a 51-year-old university professor in Buenos Aires who did not vote for Milei, expressed a sense of unease, describing the situation as “a leap into the void.” He remarked, “It’s a great unknown. God willing, he surprises us… Let’s hope that people haven’t made a mistake, but hey, we have to respect what the majority decided.”
For Leandro Boses, a 31-year-old security guard, Milei’s win brought personal relief. Boses, who backed Milei, highlighted the impact of inflation and currency controls on his monthly salary, stating, “I am happy. My (monthly) salary is $300 at the blue (black market) rate, so in fact, yesterday when they were celebrating at the Obelisk, I was working and I wanted to escape and go there.”
Milei secured nearly 56% of the ballot, a considerable margin over Peronist economy chief Massa, attracting undecided voters frustrated with Argentina’s highest inflation rate since 1991.
Claudio Bernal, a 42-year-old pharmacist from the capital, spoke of his struggles amid the economic challenges, expressing hope that Milei’s proposals for change would materialize. “He has shown he knows about the economy. Let’s just hope the other political parties help him to achieve those proposals,” Bernal said.
However, Milei’s ambitious plans to shrink the size of the state face challenges, given his party’s limited representation in a highly fragmented Congress without a majority bloc. Actress Julia Eva Saggini, 32, voiced concerns about potential power struggles within Milei’s government, particularly with his high-profile conservative backer, ex-President Mauricio Macri. Saggini urged opposition forces to swiftly “start resisting” Milei’s more radical ideas, emphasizing uncertainty about the future governance.
As Argentina prepares for a new chapter under Milei’s leadership, the nation remains on edge, awaiting the unfolding of his promised economic reforms.