What is the identity of Argentina’s divisive chainsaw candidate for president, Javier Milei?

Javier Milei, who refers to himself as “the monarch of the wilderness” and wields a chainsaw during his electoral campaign, is causing a stir in Argentinian politics at a sensitive juncture for the Latin American nation.
ADVERTISEMENTThe spectacle includes appearances by Batman and the Joker, an individual adorned in a complete lion costume, and another individual whose head and arms have been supplanted by chainsaws. This is not a display for Carnival or Comic-Con, but an eccentric campaign gathering for Argentine presidential hopeful Javier Milei. In a short span of time, the right-wing populist Milei transitioned from being a prominent television personality known for his uninhibited diatribes against a “political elite” he faults for Argentina’s persistent economic struggles to emerging as a leading contender for the presidency. The ultra-liberal economist has accomplished what others have not—penetrating the dominant space between the Peronism of the ‘Frente de Todos’ party and the supporters of former president Mauricio Macri, represented by the ‘Juntos por el Cambio’ party. Thus, his rallying cry: “I have not arrived to shepherd lambs, I have arrived to awaken lions.” His appeal appears to stem from his capacity to channel the anger that the Argentine populace feels towards the ruling class amidst scorching triple-digit inflation and escalating poverty. In the country, yearly inflation stands at 140%, while over 40% of the populace grapples to make ends meet by month’s end.”He communicates in a manner akin to that of a commoner, like one of us; that’s why he enjoys such popularity,” remarks Rodrigo Agüera, an Argentinian server based in Barcelona. “I support change,” he states, “but we will need to see what ensues because ultimately, politicians will always be politicians—they proclaim one thing and carry out another.”From television pundit to presidential contenderOnce deemed a sideshow in Argentine politics, Milei successfully leveraged his success as a television personality to secure a seat in the Chamber of Deputies, Argentina’s lower house of Congress, in 2021. He subsequently embarked on what appeared to be a far-fetched presidential bid but shook up Argentina’s political establishment by garnering the highest number of votes in the country’s August primaries, which were widely regarded as a massive poll of voter preferences.”He is an individual who lacks an understanding of the political system, be it the electoral or executive aspects. He lacks governing experience at a municipal or city level. How can we expect him to govern a nation?” questions cultural management student Candela Kantor. “He is surrounded by individuals whom he seeks to appoint to ministerial positions—individuals closely associated with Argentina’s dire crisis,” she adds.Argentinian quest for an alternativeMilei was anticipated to have an advantage in the October election but ultimately finished second with 30% of the vote, trailing nearly seven points behind Economy Minister Sergio Massa.Researcher Alan Ríos believes that the segment of the populace inclined to vote for Milei “do not identify with the prevalent narrative, neither with Kirchnerism nor Macrism.” “They have experienced the governance under both kinds of administrations, and nothing changed. In fact, matters worsened,” he expounds.Milei and Massa are slated for a runoff this weekend, and pre-election polls indicate a dead heat, with a large contingent of undecided voters who will play a pivotal role in determining the outcome.”Yes” to bodily autonomy, “No” to abortionOften likened to Argentina’s Donald Trump, Milei espouses a blend of admiration for capitalist ideals and socially conservative policies, including opposition to abortion, which Argentina sanctioned in 2020. Conversely, he supports the unfettered trade of firearms and human organs. “Why does the state need to regulate everything? My body is my primary possession,” he declares.Setting forth the adoption of the US dollar and shuttering the Central Bank are among the measures he pledges, alongside the privatization of state-owned public enterprises. ADVERTISEMENTSome of his supporters also employ props to emulate the chainsaw that Milei has frequently presented at rallies to symbolize his intentions regarding state expenditures. The economist and aficionado of canines has made it unequivocally clear that there will be reductions in critical areas such as healthcare, education, and social development.As per history instructor Luis Klejzer, “he poses a threat to democratic liberties and human rights.”Historical remembrance under threatAnother issue that has sparked public deliberation is the vice-presidential candidate Victoria Villarruel. The daughter of military officials, Villarruel has come under scrutiny for casting doubt on the crimes perpetrated during the military junta that governed Argentina from 1976 to 1983, encompassing the torture and disappearance of thousands of individuals at the hands of security forces.”There exists a substantial segment of society—families of military personnel, individuals from military circles, and those with more right-wing inclinations—all active in Argentine politics, who have hitherto lacked representation,” Ríos elucidates. “By arriving here and affirming all these aspects, Milei is also openly granting these individuals a space,” he adds.In line with Klejzer, the persona of Javier Milei “can resonate with all the discontent prevalent in this society, especially among the youth,” who, he asserts, are bearing the brunt of the economic crisis. “They do not perceive a future and hence, are striving to break free of this predicament through extreme right-wing avenues,” the Buenos Aires-based history instructor expresses concern over the prospect of Milei assuming the presidency, cautioning that “we are on the verge of forfeiting the constitutional freedoms of our beloved Argentina.”

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