Javier Milei in Buenos Aires, on October 22. Tomas Cuesta (Getty Images)
A change has already begun in Argentina, and not because a new government has taken office. Javier Milei, the ultra candidate who dazzled millions of Argentines with his calls to "exterminate the entire political caste," has begun the rapid reconstruction of the bridges he tore down with fury during the campaign for the first round. Second in Sunday's elections with 30% of the vote, six points behind Peronist Sergio Massa, he has been lowering the decibels of his incendiary verbiage since election night. Needing votes to beat Massa in the Nov. 19 runoff, El León, as he calls himself, is no longer showing his teeth.
His new seduction strategy began with Patricia Bullrich, the conservative who came third and whom he accused during the presidential debate of being a "bomb-thrower" because of her past in the Peronist guerrilla Montoneros. The new Milei reached a paroxysm on Tuesday, when he offered a ministry to the traditional left, the same one he accused with flaming eyes of being "filth", "scum" and "shitty lefties".
Patricia Bullrich's votes, disputed territory in Argentina
On Sunday night, Milei had to face hundreds of supporters who were hoping for a clear first place. He left the chainsaw under the stage, a symbol of his promises of total destruction of everything established, and did not speak of putting an end to the "political caste" but to Kirchner's Peronism. The traditional right and left were left out of the long list of enemies of the homeland. "I come to put an end to the process of attacks and make a tabula rasa to put an end to Kirchnerism. Beyond our differences, we have to understand that we have a criminal organization in front of us," he said, referring to the current government.
Milei then went around radio and television channels offering charges to his enemies of yesterday. Less than a month ago, Bullrich, President Mauricio Macri's former security minister, was a terrorist who had "planted bombs in kindergartens." The accusation earned the candidate a criminal complaint filed by the aforementioned woman. On Monday, however, he said that Bullrich had done an excellent job as minister and offered to add her to an eventual far-right government. "If she wants to, how am I going to say no," he said. That Bullrich accepts the invitation is not unreasonable. Macrismo's flirtations with Milei began before the elections, especially by Macri's decision. The former president saw, rightly, that Milei was taking votes away from his coalition, Together for Change, and said that his party, the Pro, should support laws in the future Congress that were in tune with the liberal ideals of the movement. Macri's offer went down very badly among the moderate partners of Together for Change, and now in defeat the possibility of a rupture accelerates.
Milei, like Massa, has gone on the hunt for the 6.2 million votes of Together for Change. The ultra used to call them "Together for the Charge," and now he's studying the most elegant way to swallow their words without losing his composure. His metamorphosis has its risks: it is unclear to what extent his voters, nearly eight million people, will forgive him for now opening his hand to those he treated as thieves, terrorists and murderers.
Milei's new campaign strategy is that only the unity "of the defenders of freedom" will be able to remove Kirchnerism from power. And former President Macri is the figure he trusts to add votes. "With Macri we understand the risk of the continuity of Kirchnerism in someone as skillful and perverse as Sergio Massa. If I am willing to open the dialogue so that we can put an end to Kirchnerism, the choice is very easy. Do they want to stay discussing what happened in the campaign or do we turn over a new leaf and remove the Kirchnerists from power?" he said.
Macrism does not rule out accepting, finally, some kind of agreement with Milei, even if it means breaking with the moderate sectors of the coalition they are part of. Federico Angelini, deputy and vice president of the PRO, said on Tuesday that it will be enough for Milei to apologize to Bullrich to put an end to the issue of the bombings against children. "The personal has to be below the general interest, which is for Argentina to move forward," Angelini said.
Milei's invitation reaches Macri, but not the rest of his radical partners in Together for Change. The ultra has a visceral hatred for the heirs of President Raúl Alfonsín (1983-1999), whom he accuses of having betrayed Bullrich by voting for Massa last Sunday.
He doesn't think so of the left, at least now that it needs its 700,000 votes. During the last candidate debate, he accused them of advocating communism, "an ideology that killed 100 million people." "With shitty lefties you don't have to negotiate anything at all," the ultra repeated on social media. On Tuesday, he offered them a possible Ministry of Human Capital, with which he plans to put an end to the current ministries of Education, Health, Labor and Social Development. "People on the left are the ones who know the most" about human capital, Milei said. In any case, his campaign no longer talks about annihilating the entire political caste, dynamiting the Central Bank, dollarizing the economy and legalizing the carrying of weapons. The new battle he offers his voters is "freedom vs. Kirchnerism."
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