Argentina’s new maverick right-wing president, who believes people should be able to sell organs, has threatened the country’s relations with China, one of its biggest trade partners.
Javier Milei, labelled “the Donald Trump of Latin America”, won a resounding victory in Sunday’s presidential elections over his centrist opponent Sergio Massa.
The economist, known as “the wig” because of his famously unkempt hair, wields a chainsaw at rallies as a symbol of the dramatic changes he plans to carry out on the Latin American nation’s economy, which is struggling with 142 per cent inflation.
Analysts said Mr Milei – who has claimed to be an expert in tantric sex – won a shock victory because Argentinians are desperate for some way out of the country’s worst slump in decades and blamed established politicians.
The self-styled “anarcho-capitalist” has said he “won’t make deals with communists” in China or Brazil, which has a left-wing president in Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The new president later said he would leave it to the private sector to decide if they wanted to maintain commercial ties with China.
China and Brazil are Argentina’s two biggest trade partners, along with the European Union.
Mr Milei, who Trump predicted would “Make Argentina Great Again”, has described climate change as a “lie of socialism” and said Argentine Pope Francis is “on the side of bloody dictatorships”.
The Anglophile – who performed in a Rolling Stones tribute band and is fond of wearing a leather jacket at rallies – has appeared with a $100 bill bearing his face to promote his proposal to ‘dollarise’ the economy.
The 53-year-old has criticised the late Argentinian football icon Diego Maradona and praised Margaret Thatcher as one of the “greatest leaders in the history of humanity” during the electoral debate. Mrs Thatcher is unpopular in Argentina for her role in the 1982 Falklands War.
Mr Milei, who is also a fan of Winston Churchill, has proposed a “Hong Kong-style” solution to return the Falklands to Argentina.
In a recent interview with La Nación, an Argentinian newspaper: “Argentina’s sovereignty over the Malvinas [Falklands] Islands is non-negotiable. The Malvinas are Argentine. The war option is not the solution.
“What we are proposing is to move towards a solution like the one England had with China over the Hong Kong issue and that in this context the position of the people who live on the islands cannot be ignored. You cannot deny that those people are there. You cannot disregard those human beings.”
The Falklands Islands government was unavailable for comment when contacted by i.
Rogelio Nuñez, an expert in Latin American politics at the Real Elcano Institute, a think-tank in Madrid, said Mr Milei’s attitude towards its largest trading partners may spell trouble for Argentina.
“Relations are going to be more difficult between Argentina and Brazil, China and the European Union, which wants better relations with [South American trading bloc] Mercosur,” he told i.
“But Milei may be more pragmatic. As far as the United States is concerned, the Biden administration will not welcome more turbulence with all the other problems in the world.”
Mr Milei favours looser regulations on gun controls and tighter rules on abortion in the deeply Catholic country.
With a reputation as an eccentric, Mr Milei claimed one of his dead dogs, Conan, contacted him through a medium and said he should run for president. He reportedly has at least four English Mastiffs cloned using Conan’s DNA, all named after economists.
Backed by conservative politicians, Mr Milei said his mission was to “stamp on the privileges of politicians”.
Whatever Mr Milei’s policies when he enters office next month, it will not have much influence on UK-Argentina trade, which amounted to £2.2bn up to the second quarter of 2023, according to UK government data.
Argentina is the UK’s 66th most important trading partner and accounts for 0.1 per cent of all UK GDP.