Javier Milei is a former rock band member, former tantric sex coach, someone who allegedly takes advice from his dogs and now the president-elect of Argentina. With inflation at 143%, extreme poverty and a pervasive view that everything is broken, Argentinians have decided that someone called “the madman” by his followers, who has wielded a chainsaw on several occasions to call for a drastic cut in the size of the government, may have just the radical ideas they need to take the country back on the path of economic prosperity.
With wild hair reminiscent of former UK prime minister Boris Johnson and political views that have earned him comparisons with former US president Donald Trump, the right-wing politician has, in the past, also called Al Capone a hero and dubbed Pope Francis an ‘imbecile’ and a ‘filthy leftist’.
A libertarian and a self-described anarcho-capitalist, what helped Mr Milei win the election was that he was running against economy minister Sergio Massa from the ruling party, who was seen by many voters as representing the status quo.
Bursting into the public consciousness as a television panellist who ranted against government spending and corruption, Mr Milei entered politics in 2020 with a promise to “blow up the system” and was elected a lawmaker the next year. His party is called Libertad Avanza, or Freedom Advances.
The 53-year-old has appeared in a superhero costume, dubbing himself General Ancap (anarcho-capitalist) and has been seen with a chainsaw on several occasions, including when he cut down a pinata with it on TV. The chainsaw, which was meant to represent cutting through government bureaucracy, was quickly adopted by his followers as an election symbol of sorts and one of his followers even appeared on TV wearing a cardboard chainsaw mask.
After winning one round of polls, Mr Milei thanked his five dogs, Conan the mastiff and four clones of the now-dead dog, who are named Murray, Milton, Robert and Lucas after economists Murray Rothbard, Milton Friedman and Robert Lucas.
Journalist Juan Luis Gonzalez, who wrote Mr Milei’s unauthorised biography called El Loco (‘The Madman’), said that Conan was like a son to the politician, Mr Milei has said this himself as well and said that the other dogs are his grandchildren. He has also claimed that it was Conan who gave him the mission to be president.
In interviews with Argentinian media outlets, the politician has also called dogs the “best strategists in the world” and said that they advise him on various issues.
Mr Milei, who often calls himself “the lion”, supports more relaxed gun laws and a ban on abortion. He has also called for the elimination of the central bank and said he will end the use of the local currency, the peso, and replace it with the US dollar. In a controversial claim, he has also said that humans are not responsible for climate change.
According to a report by news agency AFP, analysts said that the main driver of Mr Milei’s victory was voter anger at the status quo, rather than his personality or views on various issues.
“Everything is already broken. Mr Milei isn’t going to break anything,” student Agustin Baletti, 22, told AFP before the election, adding past governments “left young people without hope.”
In a speech after being elected, the president-elect said there was no room time for half-measures even as ecstatic supporters celebrated and chanted his name.