Javier Milei

2 minute read
By Vera Bergengruen

Javier Milei, a radical libertarian economics professor and former TV pundit with little government experience, won Argentina’s presidency in a landslide victory in November by promising to pull the country from the brink of economic collapse. His win shocked pollsters and exposed the desperation of 46 million Argentines crippled by triple-digit inflation and a 40% poverty rate. “There’s no going back,” the self-described “anarcho-capitalist” told supporters after his victory. “Argentina’s situation is critical.”

Milei, 53, has wasted little time. Warning Argentines to brace for pain, he embarked on a “shock therapy” campaign of hundreds of austerity measures: terminating 70,000 state jobs, cutting federal aid, reducing the number of government ministries by half, and devaluing the peso. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets. At the same time, Milei’s profanity-laden tirades against Western “socialists”—and the “traitors” who defy him in Argentina’s legislature—have made him a global icon for the right. While it’s too soon to tell whether the new President’s measures will succeed, it’s clear that he has been right on one thing: with Milei in office, there will be no going back for Argentina.

Bergengruen is a TIME senior correspondent

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