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How much do people know about Argentina's new President?

Jack McCurry, Grade 11, Staff Writer

 

Javier Milei is the new populist leader of Argentina. The country is home to the second largest economy in South America, and students at the High School of American Studies have been paying special attention to the country’s new leader and his rise to power.Common Sense looks at the reaction from our community.


When asked if he knew anything about Milei, Theodore Cacy (‘26) said “I’ve heard he is far- right and libertarian. I heard he really wants to limit government powers, including education and government involvement in the economy.”


Unlike most President- elects, Milei has had very little experience in politics before being elected this year, having only served 2 years in Argentina’s Congress. Born and raised in Argentina, Milei built his current political following as an economist on Argentinian television, becoming popular for his many rants against big government policies, frequent use of profanity, and candid portrayal of his personal life.


A far-right self-described anarcho-capitalist, Milei introduced several controversial proposals during his presidential campaign this year such as the elimination of the Central Bank of Argentina and half of the country’s government ministries, including health and education.


Currently, Argentina is suffering its worst economic crisis in over two decades, with inflation above 147% and over 40% of its people living below the poverty line. Milei, like many far-right figures, believes that the best way to reduce inflation and improve the economy is to eliminate government programs and reduce government spending. Milei has also pledged to cut trading ties with Brazil and China, loosen gun laws, and recriminalize abortion after Argentina's government legalized abortion in 2020.


When informed of Milei’s policy proposals and asked to give her perspective, Zoey Ford (‘25) explained her reservations. “This guy seems really suspicious because Argentina has a high unemployment rate so when people can’t make money they will resort to violence in an unethical way.” She also takes issue with his legislation regarding guns. “I believe that looser gun laws will be problematic because they will promote this level of violence. Legalizing the sale of human organs is also problematic, in my mind, because it will promote the business of human trafficking.”


Some of his policy proposals, such as legalizing the sale of human organs, are unusual stances for any politician to take, regardless of political ideology. While some people are turned off by Milei’s unconventional nature, his unusual views and activities are part of his appeal to many others. They reinforce their belief that he is an anti- establishment politician who will shake up the Argentinian government.


Dora Manzo, a regular substitute teacher at HSAS who is originally from Argentina, shared the qualities she looks for in a leader. “The main quality I look for in a leader of Argentina and anywhere is honesty.” She then added, “In anything you do, honesty is important but the responsibility is that much greater when you are a leader who people look up to. Empathy for the struggle of the people is also crucial as leaders are too often in it for themselves.”


Whether Meili will actually have those qualities of honesty and empathy is still too early to tell, but his promotion of falsehoods such as climate change not being caused by humans, and his labeling of fellow Argentinian Pope Francis as a “communist turd” paint an ominous picture to many.


As a history-focused school, HSAS teaches students to learn from the lessons of history and look at the larger context of current events such as Milei’s election. In our history classes, we have seen repeatedly– most notably during the Great Depression of the 1930s– that in times of economic turmoil, charismatic anti-establishment, political outsiders like Milei gain support from people who are desperate for change.


Amid the economic fallout from the pandemic, we have seen the rise of populist movements, not just in Argentina but around the world. The Netherlands, for instance, elected their first far-right leader ever in an upset election only 3 days after Javier Mileis' election.


Akira Thon That (‘25) shared how his study of history at HSAS and in other places has impacted his perspective on the world. “My study of history at HSAS helps me understand the nuance behind the action of influential figures in today's society and their effect on the larger global picture.” He explained how this understanding allows him to garner perspective in regards to Argentina’s new leadership. ”This understanding allows me to understand why Argentina elected a far-right leaning leader during a time of economic stalemate today.”


Students at our school are told that it is our job as students of history to internalize the lessons of history and prevent society from repeating the mistakes of the past. We all wish to see a better future as a society, and it is up to us as history students to look at the economic/political results of populists movements of the past, and let that historical context guide how we view the rise of populists movements today.


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