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For generations, Argentina’s economy has struggled with debt, inflation, and other economic challenges. Today, the South American country is printing money to pay its bills while also withdrawing $7.5 billion from an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout program, adding to the $40 billion already owed to the organization, according to the Economist.
Meanwhile, officials recently hiked payments to government employees, retirees, and poor families to mitigate these folks’ economic hardships – 40 percent of the country lives in poverty – while also defiantly expanding their balance sheet, despite the IMF’s appeals for austerity, added Bloomberg.
These problems aren’t new. But Javier Milei, who won the largest share in the Aug. 13 primary election that is viewed as a dress rehearsal for the presidential election on Oct. 22, has novel approaches to solving them.
Sporting wild hair, Milei, often called a ‘Donald Trump-like populist,’ is described as an ultraconservative, libertarian economist and congressman who claims that he once worked as a tantric sex coach. He has proposed shuttering Argentina’s central bank and adopting the American dollar while slashing government spending, boosting free-market policies, and dismantling the political elites whom he claims are destroying the resource-rich country, the Washington Post reported.
These moves would counter inflation – but would also surrender Argentina’s monetary policy to bankers in Washington, DC.
Leftists are in dismay. Even Pope Francis, an Argentinian, had choice words for Milei’s platform. “The extreme right always reconstructs itself,” said the pontiff in March when a television reporter asked him about his homeland’s politics, according to the Guardian. “It is the triumph of selfishness over communitarianism.”
Many Argentines don’t agree. It showed in the primary results: Milei won more than 30 percent of the primary vote. The conservative opposition won 28 percent, while the ruling Peronist party of outgoing President Alberto Fernández, who is not running for reelection, came in third with 27 percent, noted Reuters.
Meanwhile, tensions are running high. Argentine police recently arrested almost 100 people on looting charges, the Associated Press wrote. In a country where citizens routinely buy in bulk in anticipation of higher prices, looting is a key indicator of public sentiment. Security officials blamed Milei and his followers for stirring discontent, while Milei suggested that the government was behind the unrest.
Milei, meanwhile, is barnstorming Argentina, offending mainstream pundits while blasting the incompetence of the country’s leaders. He’s leveraged social media, too, in a manner that has bypassed traditional party structures, reported the Buenos Aires Times, a local English-language newspaper.
If Argentinians want real change, they have a chance to get it. Whether they like it or not is another question.