Javier Milei’s election embarres Argentina’s neighbors

Published on Nov 20, 2023 at 6:45 p.m.Updated Nov. 20, 2023 at 6:58 p.m.

“The far right has won in Argentina […]. It’s sad for South America,” lamented Gustavo Petro, the left-wing president of Colombia, upon the announcement of the victory of populist Javier Milei. More sober, Lula wished “good luck and success” to the new Argentine government, without even mentioning the name of Milei, who had qualified the leader Brazilian of “corrupt communist”. Far from the enthusiasm expressed by former Brazilian and American presidents, Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump, on social networks.

The election of the fanciful libertarian Javier Milei at the head of Argentina did not really rejoice the left-wing leaders of South America: among the progressives Luis Arce (Bolivia), Gustavo Petro (Colombia), Gabriel Boric ( Chile) and Lula (Brazil), the “anarcho-capitalist” climate skeptic, anti-abortion and pro-privatization, necessarily stands out. And during his campaign, Milei promised to cut ties with the “communists”, Brazil and China on your mind.

“Reasons to be optimistic”

“Relations with Brazil risk being cold, given the help that the campaign directors of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Lula’s party) have given to Ma (the opposing candidate),” predicts Luis Schenoni, head of lectures at the University College of London.

But the two largest economies in South America will have to smooth things over, especially since Brazil is Argentina’s largest trading partner. “There are reasons to be optimistic,” says Luis Schenoni. Now that Milei has won, he will have to seriously consider the potential damage that any significant disruption in relations with Brazil would cause to the economy. »

On the Brazilian side, “Lula showed a lot of restraint, in the spirit of what was called in the past Brazil’s ‘strategic patience’ towards Argentina. The first must keep the second in Mercosur to preserve its status as primus inter pares in the region and, therefore, diplomacy must prevail,” continues the researcher. The Mercosur customs union brings together Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Return of neoliberalism

For the conservative leaders of Paraguay, Uruguay and Ecuador, Milei’s election was, however, rather well received, “because it is a return of neoliberalism”, explains Maria Elisa Alonso, political scientist and teacher. at the University of Lorraine. “But it was especially among the far-right opposition parties in the region that this victory was welcomed. »

Very critical of Mercosur , “Milei would like to further liberalize the market between the four countries,” explains the political scientist. For the negotiations for an EU-Mercosur trade agreement, which have stalled for four years, “this is good news,” says Luis Schenoni. Argentina was in fact the only state in the bloc to oppose the talks. But “he will not be an easy interlocutor for Europe,” warns Maria Elisa Alonso.

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