by Valen Iricibar, Amy Booth and Martina Jaureguy
Javier Milei, founder of the far-right coalition La Libertad Avanza (LLA), gave an exultant speech after getting 30.3% of the vote in Sunday’s primary elections (92% counted). Milei, who currently represents Buenos Aires City as a national deputy, was the coalition’s sole presidential candidate.
The far-right libertarian economist’s victory came as a surprise: LLA’s performance across the provincial primaries has been underwhelming and he was polling third. Juntos por el Cambio’s victorious Patricia Bullrich promised to unite with her internal rival, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, to create “change”. A downbeat Massa, the economy minister and ruling Unión por la Patria candidate who came third, asked Argentines to think about what kind of state they wanted.
“We have not only managed to establish ourselves individually, today we are the most-voted political force because we are the real opposition, the ones who want real change,” the presidential hopeful said from LLA campaign headquarters at the Libertador Hotel in Buenos Aires. “A different Argentina is impossible with the same old people, with the same people who have been failing for over a hundred years.”
Milei scornfully refers to career politicians as “the caste” and his economic program as the “chainsaw plan” — a nod to his proposed wide-ranging budget cuts and drastically reducing the size of the state. One of his trademark proposals which defined pre-electoral discourse is to abolish the Central Bank, effectively dollarizing the economy (and abolishing the peso) in a bid to combat inflation.
“If we keep working with this passion, professionalism, and above all, love for the ideas of liberty, we’re in a position to beat the caste in the first round,” Milei said, reading from a script — unusual for the candidate.
“We’re facing the end of the model of the caste. That model based on that atrocity which says where there is a need, a right is born, but they forget that that right has to be paid for,” he said. “Its maximum expression, that aberration called social justice that makes us unequal before the law, a model that translates into a strong deficit.”
Milei’s political platform includes the elimination of ministries and rejects the demands of feminism, climate activism, Indigenous rights, and social welfare programs.
Towards the end of his speech, Milei took off his glasses and quoted a definition of liberalism by Argentine economist Alberto Benegas Lynch Jr. from memory. Behind him, one of the people onstage mouthed the words verbatim.
The far-right libertarian economist recently faced allegations of corruption after former allies publicly denounced that LLA candidacies were put up “for sale” within the coalition — something Milei characterized as a “smear campaign.”
Milei began and ended the speech with his signature cry of “Viva la libertad, carajo!” (Long live freedom, damn it!) which was met with enraptured echoes from the crowd.
You may also be interested in: Former Milei ally Maslatón testifies against La Libertad Avanza
Bullrich thanks Larreta
Patricia Bullrich, the former security minister who has won JxC’s presidential nomination, promised “reasonable” taxes, austerity, and an end to corruption in a speech to celebrate her victory in the JxC primary.
She was winning by 6 percentage points over her rival in the race for the JxC presidential nomination, Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, with 88% of the vote counted.
She promised “a change that leaves corruption behind forever and opens the way to austerity. That leaves behind pillaging and care for the property and work of Argentines. A change that leaves behind education held prisoner to political disputes, and closes the doors of our children to their future.”
She proceeded to thank her voters, in a speech interrupted by chants of “Patricia president!” from her supporters. She thanked them for voting for “security, reasonable taxes, certainty […] Clear, lasting rules.”
She then thanked Rodríguez Larreta and his vice presidential candidate, Gerardo Morales, inviting them onto the stage after she spoke. Former President Mauricio Macri, who implicitly supported Bullrich in the later months of the campaign, took the microphone to celebrate the results after the two presidential hopefuls had spoken.
She also congratulated Milei on his victory, saying that he “opened the debate.”
“Together, we’ve made Juntos por el Cambio grow,” she said, adding that they would work together from now until October’s general elections.
Massa: What country do we want?
Economy Minister Sergio Massa, who performed worse than expected with 21% of the vote, asked voters to think about what kind of country they wanted to live in.
“We will fight until the last minute because we are sure that in the upcoming Argentina work, production, the defense of our rights, and public education have to be ideals that don’t change, regardless of who is in government,” he said.
Massa added that he will give “his last drop of sweat to win in October and November,” and that the government has 60 days to “turn [the election] around and beat those who, from hatred, have built the start of a new majority.”
“This is the start of transcendent weeks in Argentina, where we will consider what kind of country we want for the upcoming years,” the economy minister said. “We are starting to discuss if we will have indiscriminate imports, or defend the national industry. We will keep defending our small businesses, sovereign energy, and national development.”
Talking in football terms, he said these primary elections are like “the end of the first half” of a match, but Unión por la Patria still has to play “the second half, the extra time and penalties,” referring to the October 22 general elections and a possible runoff.