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Javier Milei, a radical libertarian populist, elected president of Argentina

Javier Milei of La Libertad Avanza speaks to supporters during his closing rally at Movistar Arena on Oct. 18 in Buenos Aires.
Tomas Cuesta
/
Getty Images
Javier Milei of La Libertad Avanza speaks to supporters during his closing rally at Movistar Arena on Oct. 18 in Buenos Aires.

Updated November 19, 2023 at 9:32 PM ET

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentines have overwhelmingly elected Javier Milei, an ultra-conservative economist, as the next president of the South American country. With nearly all the votes counted, the former TV pundit won by more than 10 points.

The far-right populist and first-time congressman won the second round of the presidential election, defeating Sergio Massa, the economy minister from the ruling Peronist party. Massa conceded defeat soon after the polls closed, pledging to help the president-elect transition to power.

Addressing a crowd of ecstatic supporters at the Libertador Hotel in Buenos Aires Milei said that Argentina was in a "critical situation" and that it was no time for "half measures."

"The model of decadence has come to an end. There's no going back," he told the crowd. "We have monumental problems ahead. Inflation, lack of work, and poverty."

Milei is a newcomer to politics, just winning a seat in the Congress two years ago with his ultra-conservative libertarian party Freedom Advances. He describes himself as an anarcho-capitalist and pledged to battle Argentina's staggering inflation, now at more than 140%, by replacing the peso with the dollar and abolishing the Central Bank.

He's also promised to slash Argentina's generous state spending and subsidies, a prospect that had generated fear among loyal voters of the current Peronist party, which despite a powerful political machine, lost by double digits.

With his shock of unruly hair and long sideburns, Milei's outspoken style and outrageous antics have drawn comparisons to politicians like President Donald Trump and Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro.

The former U.S. president congratulated Milei on his victory, posting a statement on his Truth social media platform. "You will turn your country around and truly Make Argentina Great Again!" Trump said.

Javier Milei of La Libertad Avanza lifts a chainsaw next to the Buenos Aires province governor candidate Carolina Piparo of the same party during a campaign rally.
Tomas Cuesta / Getty Images
/
Getty Images
Javier Milei of La Libertad Avanza lifts a chainsaw next to the Buenos Aires province governor candidate Carolina Piparo of the same party during a campaign rally.

The reaction in the region was more mixed. Colombia's left-wing president Gustavo Petro congratulated Milei on his victory, but said the result was "sad for Latin America."

The president of the largest economy in South America was more conciliatory. Posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, Brazil'sLuiz Inácio Lula da Silva wrote, "I wish good luck and success to the new government. Argentina is a great country and deserves all our respect. Brazil will always be available to work together with our Argentine brothers."

The 53-year-old president-elect is known for his eccentricities and brash statements. A climate denying provocateur, Milei once described Argentine Pope Francis as "a filthy leftist" and a supporter of communists. He has never married, says he is a tantric sex expert and considers his five Bullmastiff dogs, cloned from a past pet, his "four-legged children." Milei will take office on Dec. 10.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.

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