I never imagined that a character like Milei would be elected president by the Argentinians. His discourse, his personality, his appearances, and intemperate reactions, together with his background, escaped all logic, all rationality, all normality. He had all the characteristics of an outsider, of someone who goes against the tide. But he was in tune with the prevailing context, with the indignation and the profound malaise prevailing among Argentines who are up to their necks in water. He burst in with all his might, he took the traditional right on his shoulders, far outstripping Patricia Bullrich, Macri’s candidate, and Massa, the candidate of Peronism. Few, with two fingers on the pulse, imagined his triumph.
He won by lashing out, chainsaw in hand, against the entire political class, against the caste, not only the Peronist caste but also against the Macri caste. He won by emulating Hitler’s speech and gestures in the 1930s, in Germany, against the Weimar Republic, when the political class was plunged into an economic and social crisis, expressed in runaway inflation that the political parties of the time were unable to solve. He won by assuring, by emphasising that the adjustment, the cost of his policies would be paid by the caste, forgetting that the caste never pays, that it is always the people who pay for the adjustment.
A little more than a month after assuming the Argentinean presidency, Milei has tried to go all out, to fire all his darts from one trip, taking advantage of the fact that Peronism is on the floor, at risk of being knocked out. He won precisely with the discourse that “there is no room for half measures or gradualism here”. And he gives the example of Macri’s government, whose gradualism ended up sterilising him. That is why he is playing for a shock policy, like the one applied in Chile 50 years ago by the unmentionable one.
A shock policy that we Chileans know very well, one that opens markets wide open, frees foreign trade from all regulation, and drastically cuts public spending, except for those associated with armed power – military, navy, and aviation – that guarantee the sacred rights of order and property. A shock policy that throws human rights out of the window, where the owners of the capital factor dominate the owners of the work factor, i.e. the workers, without any counterweight.
But this requires dictatorial powers, or a docile congress, workers with no capacity to react, and a surrendered citizenry. That is where Milei and the Argentines are: in the arm wrestling, in the cockfight. To see who wins. In any case, it seems that Argentines are already realising that the adjustment will not be paid for by the caste, nor by the oligarchy, nor by the powerful, as they believed when they elected Milei, but by themselves.
At the moment Milei is requesting the Argentine Congress to give him free reign to do and undo everything as he pleases, as those who are behind him. This is his first hurdle. If he does not manage to overcome it by good means, he will be tempted to do it the hard way, going so far as to take democratic institutionality with him. Some say that he is a classic chanta, a charlatan of the highest order, or an anarchist libertarian. The Argentinians have the floor.