Javier Milei, a libertarian economist became Argentina’s president in the recent election, vowing in his victory speech to do away with government corruption and turn the country into a global power. Running on the La Libertad Avanza, Liberty Advances, platform, he beat Sergio Massa, the Peronist establishment candidate and current economy minister, 55.7% to 44.3%.
Milei has promised to adopt the U.S. dollar and abandon the peso to stem 123% inflation as well as to re-criminalize abortion and to privatize certain industries. Milei’s campaign capitalized on how decades of rule by the Peronist center-left has left the country impoverished, with 40% of the population below the poverty line, and the whole country facing unchecked inflation on which interest rates above 100% has had no effect.
Young voters in particular responded enthusiastically to Milei. The voting age is 16 in Argentina, and this came to benefit Milei. Surveys show two-thirds of Milei supporters where under the age of 43. The new president will replace an anti-American regime that was cozy with U.S. adversaries. China, Argentina’s second-largest trading partner after Brazil, has had growing influence over the country’s valuable shale and lithium reserves and operates a military-run space station where Argentine officials have no access to. Argentina will likely drop out of attempts by nations such as China, Russia and Brazil to create a new unit of accounts as an alternative to the U.S. dollar.
The economy will be the main focus area at least initially. The local peso has lost about 90% of its value against the dollar on the black market in the last four years. Other U.S. allies will benefit from Milei taking office. He recently waved an Israeli flag in solidary with the Jewish state and has pledged to move the Argentine embassy to Jerusalem.
From being one of the richest countries in the world, today Argentina is ranked 130th. Claiming his 11-point victory, Milei has already smartly formed alliances with establishment conservative parties that may be able to help him pass his economic program through congress. If he succeeds, Milei could rehabilitate the battered reputation, create free markets and incentivize free trade in a region crucial to U.S. interests. Others have tried and failed, but there is suddenly a new chance for improvement and change.
After recent left-wing electoral victories in Brazil and Colombia, Argentina now joins Paraguay, Uruguay, and Ecuador to successfully counter the left-wing tide.
The elections in South America have also become more polarized between left-wing and right-wing parties with vastly different agendas. This trend is seen in the U.S. as well. Argentina has reached a level of despair with crumbled economy and corruption, so Milei will finally give people hope for change and a better life. The Biden administration seems primarily focused on its proxy war in Ukraine and NATO as well as the conflict in the Middle East. South America deserves more attention, and the U.S. should help Argentina with a feasible economic plan and financial support. 2024 will be an interesting year and hopefully Argentina will finally start a new positive path.