What’s CPAC, the right-wing conference Milei is attending in the US?

In recent years the event has embraced Donald Trump more openly while expanding to countries including Brazil and Mexico

Patricia Bullrich at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. Source: Provided by Bullrich's press team

President Javier Milei travels to Washington on Friday for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual right-wing gathering favored by far-right leaders such as former U.S. President Donald Trump.

This year’s conference will attract current and former leaders including El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele and former British Prime Minister Liz Truss. However, the event’s popularity has waned in recent years, and Milei’s decision to attend is prompting questions about his administration’s handling of bipartisan relations in the U.S.

CPAC began Wednesday with a panel discussion in which Security Minister Patricia Bullrich participated. Milei will speak Saturday afternoon, hours after Trump, although the two will not meet due to travel agenda conflicts.

The CPAC is an annual political conference that convenes right-wing activists and politicians in Washington, first held in 1974. Trump made a speech there in 2011 that catapulted him into the political limelight. The annual CPAC straw poll, which picks the conference’s favorite candidate for president, did not choose him as a favorite in 2016 — but he has won handily every year since. Panel events at CPAC this year include “Trump’s Wall vs. Biden’s Gaps” and “Trump: Our Ace in the Hole.” 

On Saturday, Trump will be introduced as “President Donald J. Trump,” perpetuating the conspiracy that the 2020 US presidential election was stolen.

CPAC’s popularity and influence has waned as the event has become more Trumpian and its chairman, Matt Schlapp, has faced high-profile allegations of sexual assault and financial mismanagement.

Bipartisan engagement?

Benjamin Gedan, head of the Latin America Project at the Washington-based Wilson Center, told the Herald it was “surprising” that Milei had accepted this invitation, since its speakers are “sharply critical” of President Joe Biden. “It is not in Argentina’s interest to alienate the US leadership,” he said.

Rebecca Bill Chávez, president of the Washington-based think tank Inter-American Dialogue, echoed Gedan’s sentiments. “Rather than focusing narrowly, I hope Milei takes full advantage of the trip to engage with the Biden administration and with Congress — both Democrats and Republicans,” she said.

Besides Milei, other international speakers include British politicians Liz Truss and Nigel Farage, Mexican actor and political activist Eduardo Verástegui, Spanish conservative politician Santiago Abascal, and El Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele. 

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CPAC’s presence as a forum for a hemispheric conservative movement builds upon the relationship between Trump and former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who spoke at CPAC last year. Immediately before Milei’s address, Eduardo Bolsonaro (the former leader’s son and a national deputy) will speak about CPAC Brazil, which has taken place annually since 2019. 

CPAC spinoffs have taken place in Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Hungary. Schlapp said last week that he first met Milei at CPAC Mexico in November 2022, and that Milei “will deliver a strong message to the Hispanic community within the United States to protect their freedoms and families in America.”

During an interview with a Miami-based radio station last week, CPAC senior fellow Mercedes Schlapp said the attendance of Milei and Bukele “shows the impact that CPAC is having globally.” She also asserted that Milei’s anti-socialist message would resonate with “naturally conservative” Latino voters come the U.S. elections in November.

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Earlier this week, U.S. Republican Senator Marco Rubio met Milei, Foreign Minister Diana Mondino and Economy Minister Luis Caputo in Buenos Aires. Rubio has long been regarded as one of the most influential Republican politicians in terms of U.S. policy toward Latin America.

Milei’s visit to the States also comes on the heels of his Friday morning meeting in the Casa Rosada with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who had been in Brazil for the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting.

“It is important to build relationships with both [U.S.] political parties,” Gedan stated. “The U.S.-Argentina relationship has enormous potential at this moment… This is no time to wade into partisan combat in the U.S.”


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