‘I’m the king and I will destroy you!’: Argentinian president stages frenetic stadium appearance

Last Updated: June 16, 2024By
King of Chaos: Argentina’s Rockin’ President Javier Milei

Argentinians call him “the Madman.” This week, he declared himself their king.

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“I’m the king of a lost world! I’m the king and I will destroy you!” Javier Milei shouted into the microphone on Wednesday night. Argentina’s showman president took to the stage for his first big concert since he was elected last year.

A Rocking Performance

The concert was at Luna Park, a famous arena in Buenos Aires that holds 8,000 people. The place was packed with young right-wing fans eager to see their rock-loving libertarian leader in person, dressed in a cool, knee-length leather jacket.

“I did this because I wanted to sing,” said Milei, who is 53. As a teenager, he was the frontman of a Rolling Stones cover band called Everest. He’s also a big fan of opera composer Giuseppe Verdi.

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Milei’s loyal followers loved seeing him perform on a stage where legends like Frank Sinatra, Duran Duran, Liza Minnelli, and a-ha had all played before. Even the soccer star Diego Maradona once had a lavish wedding reception there in 1989.

Supporters Speak Out

Sergio Gómez, who owns a transport business, flew over 700 miles to be at Milei’s “fiesta of freedom.” He admitted that Milei’s economic policies had hurt his business. “He has removed all the subsidies from public transportation. Prices have gone up, and it has affected people directly,” Gómez said. “But I believe we must finish the economic cleanup – we can’t keep living a lie,” he added. This feeling was shared by the more than 14 million voters who brought Milei to power.

Ana Eugenia Clemente, a 33-year-old Venezuelan actor, held Milei’s new book close. “I feel a deep hatred for the evil left that damaged my country, and I feel Milei is someone who has come to save not only Argentina but the world,” she said with excitement.

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Criticism and Controversy

Not everyone was impressed. Argentina’s opposition saw the concert as a distraction from the country’s problems, which they believe Milei’s policies have made worse. “With his show at Luna Park, Milei is covering up an enormous economic and social crisis, which his economic administration only aggravated,” said Itai Hagman, a lawmaker for the center-left coalition Frente de Todos. “[There is] no prospect of short- or medium-term improvement; the idea of a quick recovery or a foreign investment boom is only in the mind of the president.”

A Show to Remember

The newspaper La Nación called Milei’s event “utterly flamboyant” and unlike anything Argentina had seen before, especially during tough economic times. “It was a two-hour-long pagan mass celebrated by a president in ecstasy,” they said about the show, which was meant to promote Milei’s latest book, Capitalism, Socialism and the Neoclassical Trap.

During the concert, Milei’s specially assembled band played tracks by the Argentinian hard rock band La Renga. This performance helped solidify Milei’s reputation internationally. Time magazine recently called him “the world’s most eccentric head of state.” Milei is now seen as a leading figure in the global hard right, alongside Donald Trump, former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, and Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán. Playing the drums next to Argentina’s president was Bertie Benegas Lynch, a pro-Milei congressman. He wore a T-shirt with the yellow Gadsden rattlesnake – a symbol of Milei’s movement and the US far right – and the message: “Don’t tread on me!”

A President’s Battle Cry

Throughout the show, Milei lashed out against the “damned communists” he blames for Argentina’s economic troubles. He also attacked the “enemies who are trying to overturn this government because they want socialism and misery to continue” and the “murderous” pro-choice movement. “I eat the elites for breakfast!” Milei sang, tweaking the lyrics of La Renga’s track Panic Show.

Real Issues Remain

But critics argue that Milei’s rockstar antics won’t solve Argentina’s serious issues, like rising poverty, unemployment, and one of the highest inflation rates in the world. The country is facing its worst economic crisis in two decades. Even though Milei promised to fix these problems, six months into his term, three in five Argentinians are living in poverty, and annual inflation is close to 300% – higher than Syria, Lebanon, and Venezuela, though monthly inflation has slowed down a bit recently.

Just hours before Milei’s concert, the government’s statistics bureau reported that economic activity had fallen by a huge 8.4% in March compared to the previous year. The informal dollar exchange rate, known as the “blue dollar,” hit an all-time high of 1,280 pesos. Last week, there were protests in the northern province of Misiones as police officers and schoolteachers demanded pay raises to cope with rising inflation.

Gustavo Córdoba, who runs the Zuban Córdoba political communication consultancy, said Milei’s “self-celebratory, tribal” show was an attempt to energize his supporters at a time when many Argentinians are doubtful about the president’s economic “revolution.” “The government … needs favorable economic results urgently,” Córdoba said. Without those, “what it does is entertain.”

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