Argentine President Javier Milei gets himself on Time’s front cover

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Before anyone jumps to any conclusions about why, it has nothing to do with whether he is good or bad as a president. Presidents like Hitler, Nixon, and Trump would have never otherwise appeared on the cover. It is purely because he is an icon for the libertarian movement of our times.

Still considered by the majority the country’s economic saviour, President Javier Milei now finds himself in the unenviable position of despising his new office. The opulent Casa Rosada, with its lavish blue chair and intricately designed walls, feels tainted by the previous decaying Peronist leaders who brought Argentina to its knees with a mixture of corruption and incompetence.

However, amidst all the distaste, there is one remarkable detail that Milei can’t help but admire. Etched into the grand fireplace mantle is a regal bronze lion, the same creature that became his personal emblem during his meteoric rise to power. As Milei proudly shows me around his spacious second-floor office, he points to a large photo of his adopted symbol – an image of a Lion sitting on his desk, silently watching over him as if foretelling his destined greatness. Smiling cheekily, he utters, “He was waiting for me here.”

But let’s be honest, who wouldn’t call Milei eccentric? From his days as a fiery libertarian economist and TV personality, known for his colourful rants and profane outbursts, to his unconventional campaign tactics, he has been dubbed the “madman” of politics. Yet, beyond all the bizarre headlines, there lies a stark austerity agenda he has been passionately advocating to rescue the country from its economic turmoil.

And boy, does this man know how to make an impression! Flaunting a chainsaw at rallies to symbolize his plan to chop down government spending, dressing up as a superhero to sing about fiscal policy, and even proclaiming his five cloned English mastiffs as his “strategic advisors” in telepathic conversations – he certainly knows how to grab our attention. Not afraid to speak his mind, Milei has called out climate change as a socialist hoax while vehemently criticizing the Argentine Pope Francis as a “leftist son of a bitch.” And the result? In November, he emerged victorious in a landslide victory. There’s no denying it – Milei’s eccentricity and boldness have undoubtedly paid off.

The meteoric rise of a self-professed “anarcho-capitalist” is a testament to the unstoppable momentum of the global right-wing populist movement. This movement has triumphed in elections from Italy to Hungary, Brazil to Peru, and even the US and India. It is now turning its sights towards dismantling corrupt and elitist governments. Meet Milei, the firebrand leader determined to tear down the corrupt establishment and let the economy burn. But unlike his counterparts, Milei boasts a volcanic temper and a mad scientist’s persona – he even claims his wild hair is styled by the very “invisible hand of the market” itself. With a messianic fervour and a country like Argentina – plagued by years of political failure and economic turmoil – as his testing ground, Milei embodies a radical ideologue on a mission. And as he gleefully proclaims, crossing from the realm of theory into the real world is truly a marvellous, even fantastic, experience.

From freezing public works projects to laying off government workers and devaluing the peso, Milei, Argentina’s new President, has not shied away from making bold economic changes. According to Milei, his “shock therapy” already shows promising results – with decreased inflation and even earning praise from the IMF. In fact, he is confident that his approach will soon be adopted on a global level, with Argentina leading the way in transforming into a prosperous nation. However, not everyone shares Milei’s optimism. While he promised to hold the “political caste” accountable, his cost-cutting measures have hit ordinary citizens the hardest, with the inflation rate still alarmingly high and poverty levels increasing. And as Milei continues to push for his sweeping reforms, it remains to be seen whether he will be able to garner enough support from political allies to make them a reality. Despite doubts surrounding his methods, one thing is clear – Milei is not afraid to challenge the status quo and has even fought against socialism and “woke” culture to an international level.

However, some critics warn that his authoritarian tendencies and disregard for the media can potentially jeopardize his popularity. As the Wilson Center’s Benjamin Gedan says, “You got Milei, and he’s not afraid to keep pushing forward his economic policies.”

Inspired by leaders beyond his borders, he promised to “Make Argentina Great Again.” To show his determination, he emulated the brash and bold style of Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, whose images were dominant in his campaign rallies. The rallying cries echoed those of the Tea Party movement, with the iconic Gadsden flags waving in the background.

But at the core of his message was a seething rage at Peronism, the long-standing leftist political movement that has ruled Argentina for decades. While it championed equality and workers’ rights, its track record includes an astounding nine defaults on sovereign debt and a crippling $44 billion debt to the IMF. Seeing an opportunity to tap into the widespread frustration with this old political order, he capitalized on the anger and propelled himself to the forefront.

According to Argentine political consultant Sergio Berensztein, he cleverly seized the moment and successfully rode the wave of discontent.

Source: A summary of the Time article.

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