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Anti-democracy triumphs in Argentina’s primary elections

The victory of the “Argentine Trump”, Javier Milei, should not be a surprise; however, it surprised many anyway. A few years after the defeats of Donald Trump in the United States and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, many Argentines do not want to learn from recent and nearby history. Bolsonaro, with close ties to Milei, degraded Brazil with his policies of hatred of what is different, his inexperience in the administration of public affairs, and his desire for dictatorship. Meanwhile, Trump’s policies in the United States had harmful social, cultural, and economic effects. And, as if that were not enough, both administrations ended up with failed coup attempts, with the goal of perpetuating themselves in power.

The totalitarian lie contributed to the rise and fall of these leaders. And in this, Javier Milei also follows and imitates them. In his victory speech last Sunday, Milei said that Argentina had been the first world power in the 19th century and promised that Argentina would occupy a preponderant place among the powers of the world.

With good reason, it has been said that Milei seems unbalanced. He is inept and rude and shouts, insults, and seems to have no idea about what he says: abolish the Central Bank, raise a debate on the need for organ sales, or that children can be sold or bought by their parents. But Javier Milei also promises the end of politicians, as if he would engage in anything other than politics.

Another coincidence with authoritarian leaders is that Milei thinks – or says – that climate change is a socialist invention and that sex education is part of a sinister plan to destroy the family. Above all, however, he presents himself as a market fundamentalist, a libertarian, even if his concept of freedom does not include the right to abortion or the denunciation of the human rights violations of the last military dictatorship (1976-1983).

Internationally, his allies are the far-right José Antonio Kast, in Chile; Bolsonaro, and the leaders of the Vox Party, in Spain. Meanwhile, in Argentina, he has recruited members of the old politics and, above all, far right-wing sectors identified with the military dictatorship. And, like any politician with authoritarian aspirations, Milei proposes magical solutions, taking advantage of the fact that traditional politicians in Argentina are not meeting the demands of society.

All this allows us to reinsert the “crazy” Milei within a populist ideology and practice. But, beyond the ridiculousness or clownishness of the character, Milei cannot be underestimated, since he presents a clearly anti-democratic ideology. Like Trump and Bolsonaro, politicians like Milei are against pluralism in democracy. They are populists very close to fascism, representing reactionary proposals on guns and family. They present themselves as messianic leaders with a divine character, but they are violent and erratic individuals who encourage the cult of their own personality. In fact, in 2020, Milei announced his entry into politics as follows: “I’m going to get into the system to kick them out on their asses.”

Milei’s anti-political and populist outlook translates into promises of violence against preconceived enemies. This is worrisome because, after the last coup d’état, the promise of ending political parties and movements had ceased to be commonplace in Argentine politics.

We have to remember our histories of violence and dictatorship. Like Trump and Bolsonaro, or Giorgia Meloni in Italy (Mussolini or Hitler), Milei was and continues to be normalized by the media and also among center-right political figures. In fact, in the speech after the election, former President Mauricio Macri wanted to identify his own political force with a supposed political paradigm that he would share with Milei.

How to choose a party in the October presidential elections that, instead of criticizing Milei, congratulates him? This did not happen in France with Marine Le Pen or in Brazil with Bolsonaro, who was defeated by a large alliance from the political arc, including the center-right parties to save democracy.

To defend democracy, the parties that defend it must put aside their differences, beyond political orientation. These parties must be united against these tendencies, since “sanitary cordons” are still necessary. Nonetheless, this is not happening in Argentina, where Milei is still considered a normal candidate, when his political abnormality, his anti-democratic character, is his main characteristic.

To understand what is happening in Argentina, it is necessary to understand that Milei is not a liberal, center-right, or libertarian, he is a far-right populist candidate with a fascist vocation. His victory would represent a serious danger to democratic life in Argentina.

*Translated from Spanish by Janaína Ruviaro da Silva


Otros artículos del autor

Profesor de Historia de New School for Social Research (Nueva York). Fue profesor en Brown University. Doctor por Cornell Univ. Autor de varios libros sobre fascismo, populismo, dictaduras y el Holocausto. Su último libro es "Brief History of Fascist Lies" (2020).


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