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Inauguration Javier Milei: Argentina's President Speculation

Right-wing economist Javier Milei was sworn in as Argentina's president. As he takes office, his radical plans face fierce opposition.

Javier Milei, a right-wing economist, was sworn in as Argentina's president on Sunday. The nation is now waiting to see which version of him will govern: the anti-establishment crusader from the campaign trail or the more moderate president-elect who emerged in recent weeks.

Milei, who became famous with profanity-laden tirades against the political caste, won a congressional seat and then ran for president. His overwhelming victory in the August primaries sent shock waves through the political landscape and upended the race. Argentines, disillusioned with the economic status quo, were receptive to his outlandish ideas to remedy their woes and transform the nation, leading to his decisive victory in the November second round and the ousting of the Peronist political force that had dominated Argentina for decades.

As he was sworn in, outgoing President Alberto Fernández placed the presidential sash upon Milei, and some of the assembled lawmakers chanted "Liberty!" However, after winning, Milei appointed a former Central Bank president as his economy minister and tapped one of his allies to helm the bank, appearing to have put his much-touted plans for dollarization on hold.

Milei had cast himself as a willing warrior against the creep of global socialism, much like former U.S. president Donald Trump, whom he openly admires. However, his recent actions, such as traveling to the U.S. and dispatching a diplomat to the COP28 conference in Dubai, suggest a more moderate approach.

His moderation may stem from pragmatism, given the scope of the immense challenge before him, his political inexperience, and the need to form alliances with other parties to implement his agenda in Congress.

Milei is expected to deliver his inaugural address not to assembled lawmakers but to his supporters gathered outside the National Congress building, with his back turned to the legislature. He is likely to refer to the economic travails he is inheriting and announce his first executive actions, including a drastic cut to public spending.

Argentina has a yawning fiscal deficit, a trade deficit, and a daunting debt to the International Monetary Fund. Milei has said he will eliminate multiple ministries, including those of culture, environment, women, and science and technology, and wants to merge the ministries of social development, labor, and education under a single ministry of human capital.

However, Milei is likely to encounter fierce opposition from the Peronist movement's lawmakers and the unions it controls, whose members have said they refuse to lose wages.

Following his inaugural address, Milei plans to proceed in a convertible to the presidential palace and later meet with foreign dignitaries, including prominent far-right figures such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the head of Spain's Vox party, Santiago Abascal, and former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Milei reportedly sent a letter inviting Brazil's current president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, after calling the leftist "obviously" corrupt last month during a televised interview. Lula dispatched his foreign minister to attend Milei's inauguration. Also expected is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is making his first visit to Latin America since Russia's invasion of his country in February 2022.

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