Argentina’s newly elected president, Javier Milei, a self-described anarcho-capitalist whose sensational rhetoric drew comparisons to former U.S. President Donald Trump, was sworn into office on Sunday
During his inaugural address, Milei reportedly spoke about the nation’s economic emergency and sought to prepare the public for a major adjustment to public spending cuts.
“We don’t have alternatives and we don’t have time. We don’t have margin for sterile discussions. Our country demands action, and immediate action. The political class left the country at the brink of its biggest crisis in history,” he said to thousands of supporters in the capital, Buenos Aires, according to the Associated Press. “We don’t desire the hard decisions that will be need to be made in coming weeks, but lamentably they didn’t leave us any option.”
Argentina has South America’s second-largest economy, but it is suffering 143% annual inflation, causing the country’s currency to plummet.
The country also has a trade deficit of $43 billion as well as $45 billion in debt to the International Monetary Fund, with $10.6 billion due to private and multilateral creditors by April.
Milei has said, “There’s no money,” and on Sunday he repeated the notion and explained why a gradualist approach that requires financing is not an option.
Still, he promised his supporters that his proposed change would mostly affect the state instead of the private sector and represents the first step to regaining prosperity.
“We know that in the short term the situation will worsen, but soon we will see the fruits of our effort, having created the base for solid and sustainable growth,” Milei said.
On Sunday, Milei was sworn into office inside the National Congress building and the ceremony included outgoing President Alberto Fernández placing the presidential sash upon him. Some of the assembled lawmakers chanted “Liberty!”
Breaking with tradition, Milei then delivered his inaugural address to supporters outside, instead of assembled lawmakers, with his back turned to the legislature.
During his speech, he blamed the outgoing lawmakers for putting Argentina on the path toward hyperinflation, saying the political class “has ruined our lives.”
“In the last 12 years, GDP per capita fell 15% in a context in which we accumulated 5,000% inflation. As such, for more than a decade we have lived in stagflation. This is the last rough patch before starting the reconstruction of Argentina,” Milei said. “It won’t be easy; 100 years of failure aren’t undone in a day. But it begins in a day, and today is that day.”
Although he did not receive cheers the entire speech, the crowd reportedly listened actively, and many waved Argentine flags, while a small portion of the crowd waved the yellow Gadsden flag often associated with the U.S. libertarian right.
On Nov. 19, Milei won the presidency amid a nationwide wave of deep discontent and rising poverty.
On the campaign trail, Milei, with his wild hair and inflammatory rhetoric, pledged economic shock therapy and to slash the size of the state. He’s also indicated he would move the Argentine embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – paralleling another move by the Trump administration.
Milei accused his opponent, Economy Minister Sergio Massa of the Peronist party and his allies of running a “campaign of fear” and he walked back some of his most controversial proposals, such as loosening gun control. In his final campaign ad, Milei looks at the camera and assures voters he has no plans to privatize education or health care.
Milei’s rhetoric resonated widely with Argentines angered by their struggle to make ends meet. The election forced many to decide which of the two they considered to be the least bad choice.
Fox News Digital’s Bradford Betz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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