The immediate reaction of the international press to the election Sunday of arch-libertarian Javier Milei as president of Argentina was to focus on some of the more dramatic promises of the politician nicknamed El Loco (The Madman).
These have included changing the currency of Argentina from the peso to the U.S. dollar, abolishing the Central Bank of Argentina, and slashing the number of state ministries from the current 18 to a more manageable eight.
But with inflation at more than 140% and an estimated 40% of Argentinians living below the poverty level, it was clear that voters would take a drastic turn in an election in which more than 76% of those eligible went to the polls.
In resoundingly electing Milei, a TV pundit and economist whose heroes are economists Milton Friedman and Murray Rothbard, Argentinians also ended nearly four decades of rule under Peronism — the free-spending philosophy that has provided Argentinians with numerous state-funded womb-to-tomb benefits and subsidies.
Whatever Milei's agenda is at home, it was clear his historic election resonated well beyond the pampas (grasslands) of his native land.
"Milei is now by far the most pro-American of Latin American leaders," Daniel Runde, Senior Vice President of the Center For Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told Newsmax, noting that he stands in contrast to decidedly left-of-center governments in Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Columbia, Chile, and Peru.
"President [Joe] Biden should immediately congratulate him on his election and send a high-level delegation to his inauguration in December," Runde continued. "It should include Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary [of State] Tony Blinken. That would show the world how we feel about a new leader in Argentina who is positive about the U.S."
"Javier will serve as a counterweight to the progressive, socialist wave of presidents in South America, notably [Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva] in Brazil and Luis Arce in Bolivia," said Joseph Humire, Executive Director of the Center for a Secure Free Society.
"Brazil and Bolivia play key roles in Argentina in both trade and migration," he continued. "In terms of Brazil, Milei can work with Paraguay and Uruguay to curb Lula's advances at bringing Mercosur [the trade bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay] closer to the autocratic regime in Venezuela. This will keep the trade relationship healthy and prevent it from being contaminated with Venezuela's robust illicit trade. In Bolivia, he will have to contend with [former President] Evo Morales and the MAS [socialists] who have entrenched networks in Argentina, but he can be a force for good to call attention to the human rights abuses by the Bolivian regime."
Humire added: "In essence, President Milei brings balance back to South America and starts to push back against the socialist wave that recently swept the region."
Milei's iconic position as a pro-U.S. leader of a Latin American country notwithstanding, American conservatives such as Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform hailed him for signing a pledge not to raise current taxes or impose new ones.
"Milei not only signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge on Argentine national television," Norquist told Newsmax, "but he added he would cut his arm off if he ever broke his word. This shows the universal power for the tax issue."
There was surely some nervousness in Beijing over Milei's triumph.
Diana Mondino, the president-elect's likely foreign minister, has said that Milei would end 20 years of secret state-to-state deals with China, which is one of Argentina's key trading partners, creditors, and investors.
Argentina already has an $18 billion currency "swap line" with China, which has helped that country pay back its debt to the International Monetary Fund. China is also a major investor in Argentina's hydro and nuclear power plants.
"What we are not going to do are secret contracts," Mondino told reporters before the election. "Argentina, this government, in the last 20 years, has had multiple secret negotiations. That is not normal and it is what we have said we are not going to do."
A self-described "Catholic libertarian," Milei made clear his dislike of Pope Francis, himself an Argentinian, throughout the campaign.
At times, Milei denounced the Pope for having, in his words, "[an] affinity with murderous communists" because Francis "does not condemn them. He is quite condescending to them [and] to all those on the left, even if they are real criminals."
The President-elect also criticized the Pope's stated commitment to "social justice," saying, "What is social justice? It is stealing from a person the fruit of his labor and giving it to another. Which implies a consequence. It is theft and theft is against the Ten Commandments … Endorsing social justice means endorsing theft."
It is considered highly unlikely that President Milei will invite Pope Francis to visit his native country.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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