Argentina’s presidential election: unraveling implications for Ukraine

November 22,2023 1255
Argentina’s presidential election: unraveling implications for Ukraine

Libertarian Javier Milei won the second round of presidential elections in Argentina. The politician received almost 56% of the citizens’ votes, while his rival, Economy Minister Sergio Massa, received 44%, Reuters reported.

The voting in Argentina occurred against the background of the worst economic crisis in the last two decades. Annual inflation exceeds 140%, and the country has suffered a threatening recession. Two out of five Argentines live in poverty.

Milei entered Argentine politics only two years ago. However, he immediately gained popularity. The politician made a chainsaw a symbol of his presidential campaign as a hint of radical economic changes. In particular, Milei promised to close the central bank and abandon the peso in favor of the US dollar.

The politician calls himself a “liberal libertarian” – and promises to reduce public spending by 15% of GDP and reduce the number of ministries in the government from 18 to 10. Milei generally plans to reduce the state’s role in economic life – to reduce taxes and transfer part of state functions to private companies.

At the same time, there are some reservations in the Argentine society about such plans of Milei, says Jorge Danylyshyn, the UWC Vice President for South and Central America (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Venezuela, Central America) and President of the Board of Directors of the Ukrainian Cultural Society “PROSVITA” in the Argentine Republic.

“Milei is considered a newcomer in politics. He presents liberal ideas as a work direction, but now there are no assurances that the politician will cope with the corrupt system. In the majority, capital reforms must go through Congress, where it does not have a majority. All because the pro-government party in Argentina remains the Justicialist Party, which is rooted in all power, parliamentary, social structures, and trade unions. That is, among a part of the population that lives mainly at the expense of state subsidies. It will take a long time to change all this, while he only has 4 years,” Danylyshyn said.

Milei is opposed to abortion, in favor of carrying firearms, and also denies that human activity is the cause of climate change. The politician has often been compared to former US President Donald Trump and former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro – his sharp style and controversial statements characterized him as a far-right politician.

However, unlike Trump, the newly elected president of Argentina calls Putin, like all of Russia, an example of autocracy – the enemy of freedom. The politician expressed the same opinion about China. Milei called for the abandonment of China and Brazil, Argentina’s largest trading partners, in favor of the United States and Israel. Milei also denies the need for the country to join BRICS, the club of the world’s largest non-Western economies, including Russia.

“I will not do business not only with China, I will not do business with any communist. I am a defender of freedom, peace and democracy. Communists, Chinese do not belong to this. Russian President Vladimir Putin is also not among the defenders of freedom, peace and democracy. The president of Brazil, Lula da Silva, is not included either. We want to be the moral beacon of the continent. As a state, we will not promote any joint actions with either communists or socialists. This does not mean that Argentinians cannot trade with them. If they want to trade with China, Russia, Brazil, that’s their problem!” Milei said.

Jorge Danylyshyn says it is too early to assess such radical aspirations of Javier Milei. “It is necessary to understand that Brazil and China are the main commercial partners of Argentina. I have doubts that the policy of rejecting them will help cover all Argentina’s needs,” Danylyshyn stated.

At the same time, the position of the newly elected Argentinian president regarding Ukraine is unambiguous. The politician repeatedly expressed support for Ukrainians in the fight against the Russians. At the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the Argentine joined one of the events supporting Ukraine.

“I brought the flag of Ukraine because if we defend the ideas of freedom, we cannot support and accept Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The position of the government is weak, it is the position of an accomplice of the worst dictatorships on earth, autocrats,” Milei said at the time. Later, the politician noted that in the first months of his tenure as president, he will definitely meet with Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“For Ukraine, the election of a new president can mean positive changes. However, it is also worth waiting for the appointment of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the country. The next months will show what is really worth waiting for,” Jorge Danylyshyn concluded. “One thing is a political campaign, during which there are many promises, and quite another – state policy, coming to power, when the president has to decide and then interests play a role, not recitations.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has already congratulated Milei on his election. “Congratulations to Javier Milei on his convincing victory in Argentina’s presidential elections. I appreciate his clear stance in support of Ukraine. I look forward to working together to strengthen our Argentina-Ukraine cooperation and restore international order based on international law,” Zelenskyy wrote

The new president of Argentina will take office on December 10.

Cover: EPA-EFE/Juan Ignacio Roncoroni

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