Union leader Luis Barrionuevo announced on Thursday he would no longer endorse La Libertad Avanza (LLA)’s presidential hopeful Javier Milei. His decision came the day after the president of the PRO party and Milei’s former electoral rival in the elections, Patricia Bullrich, decided to support the far-right candidate.
“In the general elections, I not only supported, but also defended Javier Milei with conviction and passion, believing in values, principles, and a new vision for our beloved country,” the leader of the gastronomy trade union said in a statement.
“But today, with a feeling of deep indignation and disenchantment, I feel the need to raise my voice to communicate that I cannot, nor will I, accompany this surprising alliance between Milei’s party, [former president] Mauricio Macri and Patricia Bullrich.”
Milei had been heavily criticized for his alliance with Barrionuevo, as the libertarian presidential candidate claims to be leading a crusade against what he calls “the political caste,” the term he uses to disparage the political establishment. Barrionuevo, a former senator who has been the general secretary of the gastronomy union for 38 uninterrupted years, is often perceived as belonging to that “caste.”
In fact, Bullrich attacked the far-right libertarian for his erstwhile partnership with Barrionuevo three weeks ago during a presidential debate.
“You, Milei, with Luis Barrionuevo you are not going to accomplish anything,” Bullrich told her then-rival, referring to the impossibility of the far-right libertarian’s proposal to repeal labor laws while having union leaders supporting his candidacy. “The entirety of the caste is in your party.”
The animosity between Milei and Bullrich ended abruptly following the general election on Sunday. After she publicly endorsed him in a press conference, the two embraced on television on Wednesday night.
“At the end of the day, who turned out to be the real caste?” Barrionuevo asked in his Thursday communiqué. “It is evident that our youth’s excitement, their thirst for authenticity and change, has been betrayed when finding out about these agreements with characters that embody what [Milei] promised to fight against.”
He added that Bullrich “soils the very essence of [Milei’s] initial proposal” and described her as the “incarnation of punishing the working people,” referring to her tenures as Labor Minister from 1999-2001 and as Security Minister from 2015-2019.
Following the publication of Barrionuevo’s communiqué, Milei posted on X (formerly Twitter) saying that Economy Minister and presidential candidate Sergio Massa is the representation of “the caste.”
“Massa is the most accurate representation of this impoverishing model,” Milei said. “The choice ahead of us is simple: do we continue with this system at the service of the caste or do we change to embrace again the ideas of freedom?”
Days before Barrionuevo jumped ship, the union leader and the libertarian party were already not seeing eye to eye on a key topic. In an interview on the Crónica TV channel on Thursday, Barrionuevo claimed he provided Milei’s party with 200,000 observers for the elections. In Argentina, every party posts volunteers known as “observers” at each of the country’s 104,000 polling stations to monitor the elections.
“I would say that 80% of the observing process was organized by us,” said Barrionuevo. “They [LLA] were very poorly organized.”
A source in LLA with knowledge of the coalition’s organization process told the Herald that this was not the case and that their observers were mainly volunteers.
“Barrionuevo’s observers are very few and isolated. In some districts, there are no more than a few dozen,” the source said. “And they are people who vote for Milei anyway.”
Asked how LLA would get observers for the run-off scheduled for November 19, Barrionuevo said: “Macri will probably provide observers from the PRO. I have no way of knowing.”