Argentina presidential candidate Javier Milei with Tucker Carlson
/ October 30, 2023
By John J. Metzler
“It’s the last bus stop in the world,” a former New Zealand Prime Minister once told me while he was visiting New York. Indeed, a remote South Pacific island nation of merely 5 million souls known for the Kiwi, its All Blacks Rugby team, and some pretty good wines was sadly hobbled by a woke progressive government who turned the once idyllic place into a land beset by inflation, unaffordable housing and rampant crime and gangs.
After six years in power, New Zealand’s ruling Labour Party was toppled from its ruling perch.
Labour fell to a lamentable 27 percent of the vote in national elections; back in 2020 the government won a landslide majority. This time round, the center right National Party, led by Christopher Luxon, the former chief of Air New Zealand, garnered 39 percent of the vote, and shall form a coalition government with a libertarian Act party.
Former Left wing Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, in power between 2017 and 2023, increasingly emerged as a global <em>wokista</em> among those who always know better and was particularly feted during the COVID pandemic for her draconian policies in basically shutting the country down. Though she stepped down earlier this year, her successor lacked the charisma, and her party was submerged by the undertow of bad economic news and a rising crime rate in formerly idyllic New Zealand.
A bellwether of the contest rang when Labour lost the electorate of Mount Albert, the safe seat of three former Labour prime ministers including Jacinda Ardern. The new government plans to “Get our country back on track” by slimming bureaucracy, cutting taxes, and cracking down on crime.
Half a world away in the South Atlantic, Argentina held presidential elections amid an economic malaise during which the Latin American nation’s economy cratered, turning a once prosperous resource rich land into an economic tragedy.
Argentina’s resources, comparable to the United States or Canada are sadly mismanaged by big government, corruption and a socialist legacy of the ruling Peron deity and its enduring political ideology, which harks back to Evita Peron in the 1950’s.
Once a firm middle class country of 46 million people, Argentina now sees a widening poverty rate 40 percent of the population! Inflation soars at 135 percent annually. The rate of the Peso to the US dollar is officially 350 to $1 USD. Just a few years ago when this correspondent visited, the exchange rate was already diluted at 38 Pesos to $1 USD.
Latin America’s third-largest economy holds the dubious distinction of being the world's single biggest debtor to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), owing $46 billion.
Argentina remains a beautiful and potentially rich land facing the undertow of the Peronist socialist legacy of <em>Stateism</em>, suffocating trade unions, and a left-wing populism which excuses failure in the name of ideology.
In a widely anticipated national election the ruling government candidate, Economics Minister Sergio Massa faced off with Libertarian economist Javier Milei, a popular maverick who never held political office but who captured the imagination of the young and disaffected to gain nearly enough votes to win. Milei’s La Libertad Avanza
(Freedom Advances) movement has jolted a powerful political establishment from left to right. Overall, 74 percent of Argentines cast ballots in nationwide elections which also chose a new Congress.
Given that five candidates split the vote and nobody won the 45 percent minimum, now both face off in a polarizing run-off vote next month. Massa came first with 37 percent ahead of Milei with about 30 percent of the vote.
The respected English language Buenos Aires Times wrote “The run-off will finally settle the drawn-out question of who will be saddled with the impossible task of saving a once-rich country on the verge of collapse.” On the eve of the vote an editorial writer in the same newspaper lamented, “Argentina is in meltdown.”
Controversially, Javier Milei wants to scrap the sadly worthless Peso and use the American Dollar for commerce! Though this concept works with smaller economies such as El Salvador and Ecuador, it’s dubious whether a country in the G-20 Group could sustain such a move.
During the past four years Argentina’s economy has been run into the ground by the current socialist government. So is Argentina ready for another term of Left wing populism or a tough political gamble to get the country back on track?
The old American political adage, “It’s the Economy stupid!” certainly applies aptly to New Zealand, Argentina and very likely here in the USA too.
John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014).
Free Press International
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