Populist libertarian wins Argentine primary election, poised to win presidency

A libertarian presidential candidate in Argentina with the La Libertad Avanza party secured the top spot in the primary election. Javier Milei raked in 30 percent of the general vote, making him the top candidate going into the next phase of the campaign cycle.

"We have not only managed to establish ourselves individually, today we are the most-voted political force because we are the real opposition, the ones who want real change," Milei said from Buenos Aires. "A different Argentina is impossible with the same old people, with the same people who have been failing for over a hundred years."

He ended his victory speech with his campaign motto, "viva la libertad, carajo," which translates to "long live freedom, damn it!" The crowd reportedly went wild.

Milei has stated plans to shrink the size of government, eliminate the central bank, and bring in the US dollar. After markets opened on Monday, the Central Bank of Argentina devalued the national peso by 22 percent, meaning that one US dollar is equivalent to $350 pesos, per the Buenos Aires Herald.

An official with the Central Bank claimed that the devaluation is a "faculty" of the administration, while criticisms mounted that it was a "direct request from the International Monetary Fund." Argentina's market analysts cautioned that a Milei victory could spell economic disaster for the already struggling nation.

JPMorgan projected “mounting pressure on the exchange rate, resulting in a widening gap between the parallel and official exchange rate,” per analyst Diego Pereira at CNBC.

The New York Times reported that the incumbent center-left party, which has held power in the country for 16 of the past 20 years, has largely been controlled by former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Milei said: "We're not only going to end Kirchnerism, but we're also going to end the useless, parasitic, criminal political caste that is sinking this country."

The report noted that Milei may make major changes to Argentina, a country that has seen the influence of more liberal policies over the past few decades. His running mate, a lawyer who has previously defended the country's past military dictatorship, has suggested that they would relax gun laws, and reverse policies allowing abortion. Speaking against the state of organ donation in the country, where many die while on a lengthy wait list, Milei said that bodies are possessions belonging to individuals.

"If liberalism is the unrestricted respect for the life of others, based on the principle of non-aggression and in defense of the right to life, freedom and property; and my first property is my body, then why shouldn’t I be able to do what I want with my body?" he said.

Political consultant Pablo Touzon said Milei does not have the institutional support that other right-leaning candidates have had over the years. He said: "Bolsonaro leaned on the army. Trump had the Republicans. Milei has nothing." He went on to say that Milei's economic plan has "changed 50 times," adding that "today, he does not have a team to govern Argentina."

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