Wild Reports – Far Right in Argentina

Image: Manuel Cortina
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By JOSÉ CARLOS CALLEGARI*

A cyclone forms in the South with the new phenomenon of anti-political neo-fascism in Argentina

Last Sunday, the Simultaneous and Mandatory Open Primaries (PASO, in its Spanish acronym) were held in Argentina. This is a mechanism introduced in 2009, by the Cristina Kirchner government, which works like a primary election, in which the parties submit their pre-candidates to define who will contest the election in October, and as a barrier clause, since the coalition who does not reach 1,5% of the votes in the Open Simultaneous and Mandatory Primaries will not be able to contest the general election.

Voting is mandatory and male and female voters can vote for any candidate. As there is no limit to the number of candidates presented by each party, it is the popular vote that defines, for example, who will be the candidate of a party if more than one candidacy is presented. The result of the PASO does not necessarily reflect or link to the result of the general elections, but serves as a campaign strategy guideline for each political front.

Historically, abstention in PASO is greater than in general elections, so that the portion of the electorate that does not vote in the primaries is decisive for the final electoral result. By way of comparison, in 2019, turnout in the primaries was 76,41%, and in the general elections it was 81,31%. Now in 2023, participation in the primaries was 69%, the lowest value since these primary elections came into existence and an incredibly low value compared to all general elections since the end of the dictatorship.

Such abstention can be explained, in part, by the disillusionment of large sections of the population with the so-called “traditional politics”, which in Argentina is represented by more than 70 years of polarization between Peronists and “gorillas”.[I], which was not able to avoid successive democratic ruptures, confiscations and economic crises that the hermanos face stocking dollars in mattresses, eating ancho steak and drinking good wine before prices rise again.[ii]

After calculating the results, the “lion”[iii]Javier Milei emerged and obtained 30,04% of the votes against 28,27% for Juntos Por el Cambio (JxC), Mauricio Macri's electoral front, and 27,27% for Union por la Patria (UP), of Peronist officialdom/ kirchnerista. Both fronts were represented by two candidates each in the primaries.

Javier Milei, son of a bus driver, is an obscure entrepreneur, who once worked as a banker until he became senior economist at HSBC in the country, is the representative of the political phenomenon of anti-political neo-fascim in Argentina. His speeches are filled with profanity, jumping, screaming and heavy metal. His vice-presidential candidate is the founder of an NGO in “defense of the victims of the leftist guerrillas”[iv]during the dictatorship period.

Javier Milei is a Mamãe Falai type, who takes to the streets with a cell phone to attack left-wing demonstrations. Its constant target is the mothers and grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, its marketer is that fateful Argentine who appeared last year denouncing the fallibility of electronic voting machines, and its links with the world's extreme right are evident.[v]

After confirming the results, Javier Milei read a speech – an unprecedented posture in his career as an auditorium agitator – considered “moderate” by the Argentine press. With just one curse word, which couldn't be avoided because it's his campaign slogan ("Long live freedom, fuck!”), he thanked the expressive vote, repeated to exhaustion another of his slogans “let everyone go” and said that his victory in the primaries initiated the “end of caste” Argentine politics.

The ultra-rightist promises a broad program of spending cuts, which he defends literally by wielding a chainsaw at his rallies, especially in the social area, which he does not mind calling an “aberration”. In his post-primary speech, he said he would "end social justice," bluntly and bluntly.

During the campaign, JvC and UP mostly focused their strategies on mutual attacks, ignoring the phenomenon Javier Milei. While the lion constantly attacked “todos”, but mainly “kirchnerismo”, which he calls “mala moral”, in contrast to the traditional right that he refers to as “buena” but which nevertheless represents the “todos” that should be go. “You don't make a new Argentina with the same old ones”, concluded Javier Milei, applauded by his committee.

It is still too early to say whether Javier Milei emerges as the clear favorite for the general elections, the mechanism of the PASO confuses the Argentine political-electoral analysis a little, since the abstention is high and many people consider that the primaries are “mock elections” when it is possible to make a real protest vote. Javier Milei should start to moderate more and more in the tone of speeches and start talking to big capital, defending fiscal surpluses, cutting expenses, monetary deregulation, rigid inflationary control and dismantling the state. But that is unfeasible and will make Argentina implode.

The question now is whether its anti-political system appeal resists a direct signal to the economic system. In Brazil, for example, Jair Bolsonaro had broad support from big financial capital and nobody doubts the Bolsonarist character of Faria Lima, which submitted itself to ridicule by placing a bizarre image of a Templar Paulo Guedes in one of its buildings.

But this “moderation”, and the Lion’s approximation with the establishment da Realpolitik economy, could make Javier Milei lose his charm and the accommodation of Argentine political forces could water this boil. However, if he is elected we can prepare for a political earthquake on the continent.

In 2017 Avenida 9 de Julio was transformed into a pitched battle with trade union centrals and social movements entrenched throwing cocktails molotov cocktail against the armored gendarmerie (the armed forces' shock and riot containment arm) when Mauricio Macri approved a pension reform that basically untied benefit readjustments to a basket of prices and limited it to the average quarterly inflation of the previous period.

What is this country capable of doing, which prides itself on having “first world” social indices despite incomparable economic indicators, given the “end of the Ministry of Health”? A cyclone forms in the south and it's important to stay tuned.[vi]

*Jose Carlos Callegari He is a lawyer and holds a PhD from the Faculty of Law at USP.

Notes


[I] “Gorilla” is a term used in Argentine politics to describe people who are anti-Peronists.

[ii] https://www.estadao.com.br/internacional/na-argentina-inflacao-ultrapassa-100-mas-restaurantes-co ntinuam-lotados/

[iii] Milei's campaign graphic symbol is the feline figure.

[iv] https://www.cnnbrasil.com.br/internacional/eleicoes-argentinas-quem-e-victoria-villarruel-vice-na-cha pa-do-ultradireitista-javier-milei/

[v] Milei defines himself as an anarcho-capitalist and has already declared himself to be an “ally” of Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump.

[vi] Thanks to Tainã Góis who, always “thinking what I already thought”, suggested the title of this article realizing the savagery in Argentine politics.


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