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Argentina’s Presidential Primary Winner Has Vowed to “Chainsaw” Public Spending

Javier Milei, an admirer of Donald Trump, wants to abolish the central bank and calls climate change a “socialist lie.”

Argentine far right libertarian economist and presidential candidate Javier Milei delivers a speech at his headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on August 13, 2023.

Javier Milei, an admirer of former U.S. President Donald Trump who believes climate change is a “socialist lie” and wants to impose extreme austerity on Argentina’s economy, won the Latin American nation’s presidential primary on Sunday with just over 30% of the vote.

The surprise result makes Milei — a self-described “anarcho-capitalist” — the slight frontrunner for the October general election, a high-stakes contest for a nation beset by economic turmoil and political crises. The country’s inflation rate is currently above 115% and nearly 40% of the population lives in poverty.

Milei, an economist and one-term congressman, campaigned on taking a “chainsaw” to Argentina’s public spending, describing the austerity that the International Monetary Fund has imposed on the country as “tiny” compared to his plan.

As The New York Times reported Sunday, Milei “has pitched himself as the radical change that the collapsing Argentine economy needs, and he could be a shock to the system if elected.” Milei has proposed abolishing Argentina’s central bank and replacing the peso with the U.S. dollar as the nation’s currency.

“Besides his ideas about the currency and the central bank, he has proposed drastically lowering taxes and cutting public spending, including by charging people to use the public healthcare system; closing or privatizing all state-owned enterprises; and eliminating the health, education, and environment ministries,” the Times noted.

Milei also “thinks climate change is a lie, characterizes sex education as a ploy to destroy the family, believes the sale of human organs should be legal, and wants to make it easier to own handguns,” the Associated Press reported.

The far-right candidate finished just ahead of the center-right opposition coalition, United for Change, which received about 28% support in Sunday’s primary. Argentina’s ruling coalition, led by economy minister Sergio Massa, won about 27% of the vote.

Alberto Fernandez, Argentina’s president, opted not to seek reelection.

The close results of Sunday’s primary suggest the October general election could end without an outright winner, setting the stage for a November runoff.

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