Long a fan of autocrats, Trump praises Argentina’s new leader

By Nicholas Riccardi and Jill Colvin | Associated Press

NEW YORK — Donald Trump has long praised a particular type of foreign leader — men he describes as “tough” and “strong,” even if they have chipped away at their countries’ democratic norms.

The former president and GOP front-runner is now celebrating the newly elected leader of Argentina, Javier Milei, a wild-haired, chainsaw-wielding self-described “anarcho-capitalist” dubbed “the madman” by his admirers.

“A very special congratulations to Javier Milei on a great race for president of Argentina,” Trump exulted in a video posted Tuesday on his social media site that echoed an earlier statement. “I am very proud of you. You will turn your country around and truly Make Argentina Great Again!”

Milei’s resounding win gives Trump a new potential ally if he wins the White House again — and underscores his enduring influence on global politics in the near-decade since he launched his first bid for the presidency. It’s also the latest example of the potency of right-wing populism that flirts with authoritarianism, and an anti-incumbency fever that has spread across much of the world.

“It’s just so much easier to be a populist than it used to be,” said Steven Levitsky, a Harvard University political scientist and co-author of “How Democracies Die.”

Levitsky cited several global trends that have reshaped both Argentine and U.S. politics. Among them: the repeat economic shocks the world has suffered since 2008, the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and the reach of social media.

Rising populism and anger at the perceived establishment could shape not just next year’s U.S. presidential election, but votes across the world. The United Kingdom, Mexico, India, Pakistan and Taiwan are all expected to vote on new leaders in 2024.

Levitsky noted that, in Latin America, at least 19 incumbents in a row have lost re-election since 2018.

“Voters want figures from recognizably outside the political establishment who basically want to punch the establishment,” he said.

Milei often stoked comparisons to Trump during his campaign, praising him in an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson and promoting unproven theories about election fraud in his own race before he won. Many of Milei’s supporters made “Make Argentina Great Again” hats and T-shirts a common sight during the campaign, echoing Trump’s slogan.

He spoke of taking a chainsaw to government and abolishing Argentina’s Central Bank and key ministries including those of health and education — just as Trump has proposed slashing government agencies criticized by some conservatives.

His calls to purge the “political caste” from Argentina’s government follow Trump’s calls to “drain the swamp” and obliterate a “deep state” he claims is against him in Washington.

Milei won all but three of Argentina’s 24 provinces, and his opponent conceded even before the electoral authority began announcing the preliminary results. But prior to winning the runoff election, he promoted unproven claims of irregularities in the election’s first round, suggesting “that they put the result in doubt.”

He also vowed in a radio interview Monday to privatize state-run media outlets that covered him negatively and which he …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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