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‘The change we want’: Milei supporters elated in Argentina

By AFP - Nov 20,2023 - Last updated at Nov 20,2023

View of Argentine newspapers on Monday, in Buenos Aires, which frontpage shows the victory of the La Libertad Avanza alliance candidate Javier Milei in the presidential election run-off (AFP photo)

BUENOS AIRES — Thousands of rapturous supporters of Argentina’s President-elect Javier Milei took to the streets of Buenos Aires on Monday, waving yellow flags bearing the image of a lion — the totem of the wild-haired libertarian.

The flags were selling “for two dollars”, in support of Milei’s plan to ditch the country’s volatile peso in favour of the US currency to try to halt inflation.

One supporter dressed up as a lion, while another wore a makeshift chainsaw on his head — a nod to the power tool Milei carried around during his campaign, vowing to slash government spending.

“Freedom! Freedom!” chanted the massive crowd which congregated at Milei’s campaign headquarters before heading towards the historic Obelisk monument.

Milei, a 53-year-old economist and political newcomer, has upended Argentine politics by ousting the traditional parties that have governed in recent decades — and were punished by voters amid a crippling economic crisis.

“I’m happy, I have hope. A change was necessary,” says Nicolas Paez, a 34-year-old architect with a blue-and-white Argentine flag draped around his shoulders.

“I really didn’t think he was going to win, but the youth made the difference,” he added.

In the crowd, supporters took selfies with a man wearing a mask of Milei, a black suit and a tie with a dollar bill print.

In recent years the government has strictly controlled the peso and access to dollars, leading to a complex plethora of exchange rates.

“I’m not afraid of Milei, I’m afraid that my father won’t be able to pay his rent. I firmly believe in the dollarisation of the economy. The Argentine peso is no longer worth anything,” says Juan Ignacio Gomez, a 17-year-old high school student who came alone to celebrate Milei’s victory.


‘Hit rock bottom’ 


Milei beat Economy Minister Sergio Massa from the long-dominant Peronist coalition.

“Peronism in this country is a cancer. We have had enough of it. It is synonymous with poverty,” said Nacho Larranaga, a 50-year-old writer.

“Milei is a stranger, but better a madman than a thief.”

Miguel Besnador, a 57-year-old refrigerator repairman, is convinced Milei will put an end to the economic crisis.

“Dollarisation won’t happen immediately because we don’t have dollars, and inflation won’t go down in two days,” he admits. “But sometimes you need to hit rock bottom to go up”.

In Massa’s camp, supporters of the populist Peronist movement — known for a generous welfare programme and heavy subsidies — were crushed.

“Argentina is like that, when you least expect it, it hugs the tyrant. Then it cries,” said Diego Avellaneda, a 55-year-old metallurgist.

“We are going to return in four years... to rebuild the pieces of the country that they are going to leave behind,” cried Camila Velaron, 20.

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