Nov 20, 2023, 17:05
Likened to Wolverine and Trump and nicknamed ‘the madman’, the former TV pundit is known for his prolific swearing and pledge to take a chainsaw to the machinery of state
Friends and foes of Argentina’s next president compare him to his fellow right-wing populists Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro. Others have called the wild-haired economist a mix of Boris Johnson and the killer doll Chucky.
But when Javier Milei’s image consultant conceived his unorthodox hairdo, she had two different men in mind: Elvis Presley and Wolverine.
“He looks like Wolverine. He acts like Wolverine. He’s like an anti-hero,” Lilia Lemoine, a professional cosplayer turned congresswoman-elect, said of her anti-establishment ally during a recent interview in Buenos Aires.
“[Wolverine] is very loyal and brave … He can get really mad and be aggressive with his enemies – but only when he’s attacked. He will never ever kill someone or attack someone for no reason,” the 43-year-old said, insisting Milei also had a softer side.
“He’s adorable,” Lemoine claimed in a pre-election interview, calling the far-right libertarian “the most wanted man in Argentina right now”.
That has not always been the case. An unauthorised biography of Milei – who on Sunday trounced his Peronist rival in Argentina’s most important election in decades – paints him as a mercurial loner who suffered a childhood of parental abuse and schoolyard bullying during the 1980s and was given the nickname El Loco (The Madman). “More than Milei’s ideas, what worries me is his state of mind and emotional stability,” said the book’s author, Juan Luis González.
A music-lover, Milei was the lead singer of a Rolling Stones cover band called Everest and, according to Lemoine, also enjoys Bob Marley and Verdi. “He loves opera. He sings opera. He’s not very good – but don’t say I said that,” she confided.
Milei was more successful as a media personality, finding fame as an economic pundit on Argentinian TV shows where he would pontificate about both the misery of inflation and the joy of tantric sex. “Each man has his own dynamic. In my particular case, I ejaculate every three months,” Milei once boasted on air.
Such titillating declarations – and Milei’s propensity for attention-grabbing foul-mouthed outbursts – made him a household name and helped him kickstart a career in politics around five years ago. The libertarian economist was elected to congress in 2021 for his party Libertad Avanza (Freedom Advances) party and was swept into the presidency this week by an tsunami of voter fury at the corruption and mismanagement that millions of voters blame for Argentina’s worst economic crisis in two decades.
Milei’s biography suggests some of those ideas may have come from his five cloned mastiff dogs who are named after economists including Murray Rothbard and Robert Lucas. “They are like two metres tall, they weigh like 100kg … He calls them his four-legged children,” said Lemoine, laughing off claims that Argentina’s future leader takes political advice from those animals.
Many experts believe Milei will be forced to moderate after taking power next month and will struggle to implement his more controversial proposals. Milei’s party controls just 38 of 257 seats in Argentina’s lower house and eight of 72 in the senate.
But on Sunday night Milei showed little sign of diluting his vision for South America’s second largest economy. “The changes this country needs are drastic,” he declared, announcing Trumpian plans to make Argentina great again.