Argentina Elections: Milei voters are preparing to pay the price for their economic prescriptions: “It will be suffered, but we will emerge whole”

Argentina Elections: Milei voters are preparing to pay the price
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Milei voters celebrate their victory at the polls, in Buenos Aires, this Sunday.MARIANA NEDELCU (REUTERS)

Rosa Lobasso, who is 55 years old and works as a “therapeutic companion,” was in the crowd last night listening to the first speech by Javier Milei, 53, after winning the Argentine presidential election. This Monday she is back, let's see if she can see him again. For now, mission failed, she has only managed to glimpse her sister, Karina Milei, crucial for victory. She will continue waiting for her idol at the doors of the Sheraton Libertador hotel, in the center of Buenos Aires, where the far-right liberal economist has his campaign headquarters. An active militant in Milei's presidential campaign, Lobasso is convinced that better days are coming in the medium term, but she believes that first there will be a painful stage, that she and her compatriots will notice the radical changes in their pockets. one day, but we will come out whole, with enthusiasm,” he proclaims.

This former voter of the classic conservative right describes the difference between the elected president and former president Mauricio Macri: “Do you want me to tell you in Spanish? Eggs! Another way to face things, already said [Milei] "It's not going to be gradual."

As this Monday is a holiday in Argentina because the day of Sovereignty is celebrated, the banks, the Stock Market... are closed. So only on Tuesday will it be possible to measure the impact of the victory of this candidate who proposes measures as radical as eliminating the Central Bank and dollarizing as central ingredients of his recipe to normalize an economy that has been going from crisis to crisis for decades.

A few blocks from Milei's hotel is Florida Street, the epicenter of irregular dollar exchange. Irregular but tolerated by all and well known by any tourist. It is the first place that many visit, before the Colón theater, the Plaza de Mayo or the Bombonera stadium, to stock up on pesos at the Blue dollar price, which they call it here: 950 pesos for one dollar. The official exchange rate is almost three times less, 369 pesos. Juliette, 35, is what locals call a little treeone of those people who, shouting “change, dollar, exchange house”, seeks clientele among passers-by. She hopes that on Tuesday, when she opens the stock market, there will be no sudden movements so as not to scare away either those who buy or those who sell currencies. But she claims to have no idea what could happen. Here uncertainty regarding the economy is part of daily life.

The first market reactions to the election of Milei, a outsider of politics cut from the pattern of Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, arrived this Monday from New York. On Wall Street, Argentine shares have soared, especially those of the state oil company YPF, which the next president has confirmed that he intends to privatize.

Any Argentine teenager knows more about the ups and downs of the economy, about exchange rates, about the conditions of IMF loans, than many European adults. Ignacio Giménez, 26 years old, a hotel receptionist, says that he is part of those millions of Argentines who in recent years have been “evangelized in liberalism” by economists, like Milei, who succeeded as talk shows on television. He crosses Florida Street with two friends of the same age: Gianni Pistore, programmer, and Álvaro Bazán, mechanical technician. All three voted for Milei. And yes, they are also surprised that she won with such a margin (almost 12 points).

They have a clear recipe to heal the economy: unify the exchange rate, cut everything superfluous from public spending — “salaries of civil servants, not social spending,” they say —, make the labor market more flexible, deduct taxes on products, collect more... deregulate in general. It is not at all clear that this account fits but they are very confident. “We know that they are radical changes, that we are all going to suffer the adjustment, that it is going to be hard, but it is to achieve a greater good,” says programmer Pistore. And they warn that if Milei deviates from the promised path, they will let him know. They have just arrived in the capital to attend the Roger Waters concert tomorrow. They bought the ticket months ago, 36,000 pesos each (36 dollars at the illegal exchange rate, almost 100 at the official exchange rate). They paid it in six installments to cushion the impact.

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