Milei Chronicles (4) “Casta”

Javier Milei Milei Chronicles
Javier Milei Milei Chronicles

Milei misuses the word casta to refer to politicians in both UxP and the JxC. In Milei’s bullying language he claims that the current Argentine political casta are incompetent, decadent, corrupt and have failed in their tasks of representing the majority of the Argentine people. This is basically true but does it mean he can do any better and, also, will this challenge them to do better? This section takes a look at the Argentine casta comparing it with Spain, the US and elsewhere.

Milei, in using casta to describe politicians has misappropriated the word casta from Spanish politics but changed its meaning. The Spanish ‘casta’ is used to describe a small but powerful clique of rich families, many of whom fans of Spain’s former dictator Francisco Franco. The Spanish casta create, fund, and then lobby political parties such as the right-wing Conservative Christian Democrat Partido Popular, PP, (English: “People’s Party”, another deft misnomer). The Spanish PP has similar policies to Argentina’s PRO (one of the main parties in the JxC alliance of Patricia Bullrich) and some of the Spanish casta are also happy to support the new far right fascism-friendly Vox party which has some economic coincidence with LLA. By combining votes with the PP, Vox almost formed a government in Spain this year. Such a government in Spain, were it to happen, would be more akin to Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia government in Italy (which is also fascism-friendly).

Argentina has extreme concentrations of wealth too, much worse than Spain. Argentina’s GINI coefficient is a hefty 42 (Spain is only 35), this difference in Argentina is called La Brecha, (the Gap). In terms of land ownership the Argentine 1% own 36% of Argentine farmland. They also own most of the company shares in the unregulated Buenos Aires stock exchange. Milei’s use of ‘casta’ to describe political parties (not their rich backers) is a deft far-right communication spin that serves to protect the real movers and shakers behind the Argentine political blocks and thus refocus voter’s anger on their political representation instead.

All this is speculation for now, we shall have to wait and see but Milei has already noted that he would exit BRICS+ (which Argentina had just joined) which is what happened in the UK when they Brexited from the European Union.

Could a JxC-LLA alliance happen in Argentina as it did in Spain, the US, the UK, Italy and even in Brazil? Why not? Indeed Milei even offered former President and PRO founder Macri a special position in his government should he win (an offer that Mauricio Macri quickly rejected). What would a JxC-LLA alliance look like? Could it would be something like the awkward unity between the Conservative party in the UK and the Brexit Party? Brexit and the Conservatives did not end well for the UK.

If there is a US analogy for PRO it would most closely map to the Republican Party, in a US context the LLA voter base is somewhat equivalent to the Tea-Party, religiously conservative and fiscally ultraliberal. In the US the Republican/Tea-Party overlap is also fascism-friendly. The question is whether the real Argentine casta would support an alliance between LLA and JxC and would such a move backfire on them affecting State financial support in public contracts and subsidies?

A US analogy to JxC and LLA

La Libertad Avanza is engendering an Argentine Tea-Party. Milei is their anti-Perón. Milei’s voters cling desperately to the anger he engenders through his mantra of breaking with the incompetence of the state and giving absolute freedom to the markets. His PASO voters might react very negatively to any alliance with his sworn enemies. Few Milei followers recognise that by markets Milei refers to corporations and their shareholders, the same backers of the political casta he declares as his enemy, and the same companies hiking prices. Milei has worked for these companies he knows who they are.

It is clear that the policies advocated by both sides of the bipolar Argentine divide on many issues, but most especially on the economy, are indeed not working. Both recent governments’ inept handling of the economy have led directly to the anger that fuels Milei.

What most people don’t seem to understand is that where Milei wants to take Argentina could be equally disastrous for the Argentine people and for the nation. Both in social, and most particularly, in financial terms. It could indeed be much worse! Much of what Milei advocates has already been tried with Menem and this resulted in a disaster of epic proportions in 2001-2002 but many Milei supporters were not yet born.

When tasked with such comparisons Milei recently said: “Unlike in 2001, when there was no way out, we [LLA] are offering a solution. The problem is that the casta, the politicians, the businessmen, the shady trade unionists and the media are accomplices of the system (…) This is not a vote of anger, the people have realised that they are being swindled“.

Milei did not say what his solution would be or why it would work when Menem and Cavallo failed so miserably. He said that 1:1 parity with the dollar is not the same as using the dollar as a currency. Milei also failed to indicate where he would get the dollars to dollarise when Argentina has no dollar reserves, just dollar debt. Nobody seems to have asked him whether trusting the US Federal Reserve is better than trusting your own Central Bank. He also seems to have failed to connect the dots on the collapse of the 1:1 peso-dollar peg.

1 Comment

  1. I believe Milei is promoting economic policies much more to the right than those of the US Tea Party which surfaces post-2008 election. Maybe the closest contemporary comparison is the Republican Freedom Caucus with some 20 members in the House of Representatives. His economic policies are much more aligned with the small US Libertarian Party, which has zero representation in the US Congress and, according to recent reports, has been taken over by followers of Mises, like Milei claims to be.

    The US Libertarians are purists and religiously run candidates in opposition to Republicans, though there are pragmatic Republicans whose heart is with the Libertarians. Unlike Argentina and largely due to how US election law favors the 2 major parties, there’s zero chance the Libertarians could win a seat in the House of Representatives much less the White House

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