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“Without economic results, people will forget about Javier Milei quite quickly”

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“Without economic results, people will forget about Javier Milei quite quickly”

Alberto Vergara Paniagua is a renowned Peruvian political scientist who teaches at the Universidad del Pacífico and who has a doctorate in Montreal. He assures that if he tames inflation “he will be rewarded by Argentines and celebrated in the rest of the continent.” But he highlights the example of Gustavo Petro in Colombia. “It was a continental illusion a year ago and today it has nothing to show,” he says. The common traits and differences between the libertarian and Fujimori.

–In your latest book you develop the concept of ‘defrauded republic’ to analyze Latin American republicanisms marked by social discontent. Do you think that a character like Milei is just a product of an economic crisis?
–Without the economic crisis Milei would not be president. I do not believe that Argentines have become Keynesians or that they agree with the very undemocratic ideas, for example, of Vice President (Victoria) Villarruel. I get the impression that the second round became a kind of plebiscite on inflation and between the Minister of Economy of the disaster who promised more of the same and the one who promised to change things, and the Argentines preferred the one who embodied the change . As would have happened anywhere, by the way. It is very difficult to win elections by promising not to change things.

–He also talks about the fact that in the region we live in ‘half-republics’. What would Argentina, or the countries of the region, lack to be the ‘complete republic’?
–The idea of ​​half-republics has to do with the fact that in our citizenships there are pockets of the population that can enjoy certain citizen rights and there are others that have access to almost nothing. There are vast portions of the population that only know the repressive face of the State and there are others who enjoy all their rights. To be a republic in form, the universality of citizenship must have similar amounts of freedom, but that does not happen on the continent. Not even in Argentina.

–What is the impact or effects that a government like Milei’s can have in the region? We are not only talking about commercial ties or their positions regarding treaties such as Mercosur, but also as a far-right figure who comes to power and proposes an ‘all or nothing’.
–I get the impression that this will depend on the government’s results. If Milei manages to tame inflation soon and get Argentina to grow economically again, he will be rewarded by Argentines and celebrated in the rest of the continent. If he doesn’t get it, people will forget about him pretty quickly. The president of Colombia, (Gustavo) Petro, was a continental illusion a year ago and today he has nothing to show. On the other hand, (Nayib) Bukele has achieved something to show on the continent, regardless of whether we like it or reject it. So in a year we will talk again and we will see what happened to Milei.

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–In August of last year, Andrés Malamud warned that if Milei won, Argetina’s mirror would be Peru, referring to the fact that it would not have majorities in Congress that would allow it to avoid a possible impeachment. Do you see any similarities with the last years of political history of his country?
–If I’m not mistaken, Andrés put it this way: since Milei will not have the congress, it can only be Fujimori who defeats them, or Castillo who comes out expectorated. But I would add an additional Peruvian option: what if it is Humala? I mean, a scenario in which the context could end up being stronger than the impulsive candidate and stop him. That is, neither the leader kills the system, nor does the system eliminate him. Again, in a year or two let’s talk again.

–What are the common traits that you find in Milei and that make him similar to other presidents, like Fujimori?
–The common features are that both are outsiders, both embody the denunciation of the political establishment completely and both seek to reset the relations between the State, market and society in a very liberal direction. Fujimori achieved the latter, while we do not know if Milei will achieve it. But even more important than the similarities between them are the differences between the countries that both must govern. No matter how critical the situation in Argentina is, it does not resemble the collapsed Peru of 1990. The year Fujimori came to power, inflation was 7,000% and the Shining Path was out of control. These conditions facilitated the democratic breakdown of 1992. Argentina is not there. I believe that in Argentina there is a democratic consensus, democracy is not going to break. What there is not in Argentina is a consensus on the management of national finances. That is, exactly the opposite of today’s Peru, where there is no democratic consensus, but a kind of consensus on the macroeconomic management of the country survives.

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