Argentine President Javier Milei caught the world’s attention at the Davos’ World Economic Forum after delivering a fiery speech in which he warned of the perils of socialism and outlined plans to pull his country out of economic gloom.
“I am here today to tell you the West is in danger,” Milei — a self-described anarcho-capitalist — warned, saying that countries were threatened by an agenda that “inexorably leads to socialism, and therefore poverty,” and that environmentalism, abortion, “radical feminism,” and “social justice” could undo the progress capitalism and liberalism have made since the start of the 20th century.
While many around the globe are optimistic that Milei’s ”shock therapy" can pull Argentina out of record-shattering inflation, domestic opponents warn that his policies are starting to unravel the country’s democratic values.
Milei’s critics say he doesn’t represent Argentine values
Milei’s broadside against the dangers of socialism was “typical of the leader of a faction, not the president of a Republic,” wrote Mónica Fein, leader of the country’s Socialist Party.
Daniel Schteingart of the economic think tank Fundar took issue with Milei’s vehemently free market, anti-collective stance, writing on X that while Argentina has “inefficiencies, nonsense, corruption,” it is also “capable of producing satellites and exporting high-tech nuclear reactors” and is not a “failed state.” Rather than “destroying the state,” Argentina needs to “strengthen its capabilities,” Schteingart argued, invoking a model pioneered by U.S. sociologist Peter Evans. Argentina should follow the example of Japan and South Korea where significant government intervention in the economy yielded “extraordinary results,” he said.
Opposition scrambles to counter controversial omnibus bill
With Milei in Europe, the Argentine opposition is scrambling to counter the President’s proposed omnibus bill, which liberals see as regressive and anti-human rights. The legislation would give the presidency more power to intervene in the economy, but also risks “altering the entire social and political landscape,” according to Argentina’s Center for Legal and Social Studies. Among other measures, the law grants police special immunity in the killing of civilians and reframes some protests as a crime against public order. While major corporations including Argentina’s top oil companies support the bill, activists warn that the pillars of Argentine democracy are at risk if it passes. Milei’s ambition for “unlimited deployment” of capitalism is in stark contradiction with “what until now we have called democracy,” wrote columnist Jorge Alemán for the left-leaning newspaper Página 12.
Fiery speech spurs investment interest in Argentina
Milei has already managed to charm foreign investors, with cloud computing company Amazon Web Services praising Argentina’s “human capital and entrepreneurial environment,” the Rio Times said, and mining giant Glencore among the global firms looking to increase their investments. The U.S. should back Milei because a strong Argentina would prove a valuable site for American investment and exports, in contrast to other Latin American countries that are seen as unfriendly to business, such as Nicaragua and Venezuela, Richard M. Sanders of the DC-based think tank Center for the National Interest wrote in the Miami Herald. Milei may be Argentina’s “last chance for revival in the foreseeable future,” he added – but Washington should not rule out new International Monetary Fund loans to Argentina to help its recovery, Sanders wrote.