In the upcoming Argentine presidential election on November 19, Javier Milei and his vice-presidential candidate Victoria Villarruel threaten to bring back a modernized version of the brutal fascist regime of General Jorge Rafael Videla which terrorized the population from 1976-1983 with more than 30,000 dead or disappeared.  Milei and Villarruel, are both running as part of the La Libertad Avanza (LLA) electoral coalition where Milei represents the Libertarian Party he founded in 2018, and she is General Secretary of the Partido Democrata (PD). Their personal trajectories, international connections, and economic programs reactivate, in an updated version, the worst features of the Argentinian military dictatorship. 

Back to the Past?

The energetic and fashionably under-groomed Javier Milei began, aged 53, his political career in 2003 as personal adjutant and economic advisor of the then newly-elected Governor of the northern province of Tucumán (and former Mayor of its largest city, San Miguel de Tucumán), Gen. Antonio Domingo Bussi (1926–2011). Milei’s service with Bussi was soon interrupted when Bussi was arrested for his role in the 1976 disappearance of Congressman Guillermo Vargas Aignasse. Milei remained friendly with the general and is currently close to Bussi’s son and wannabe politician, Ricardo. 

In 1964 Bussi was sent to Fort Leavenworth Texas at the Command and General Staff College. Upon his return to Argentina he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. In 1969, Bussi had been sent as part of an Argentinian Army commission of observers to the Vietnam War. US experts in counterinsurgency took note of him as an interesting cadre for an anti-subversive war. According to his  superiors in the US and Argentinian armies, Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Domingo Bussi ‘’has performed outstandingly, demonstrating distinguished personal and professional qualities through his performance during the development of the commission in Southeast Asia and in the subsequent preparation of the report, particularly in the analysis of the elements of judgment corresponding to the Vietnamese theatre of operations, the land war and the concepts of conducting that component in the subversive war.’’

Bussi was a general during the tumultuous government of Isabel Perón (1973–1975) and soon participated in Videla’s violent military dictatorship as Inspector General and Military Governor of Tucumán. His crimes included the disappearance of 700 trade unionists, students, professors, and sympathizers of the People’s Revolutionary Army (Ejército Revolucionario Popular: ERP) in a clandestine operation code-named “Operativo Independencia” (Operation Independence). After the end of the dictatorship, Bussi maintained a local political presence during fluctuating prosecutions and amnesties, including being elected to Congress in 1999 and then removed because of his bloody past. In 2008, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, where he finally died in November 2011.

Milei’s running mate Victoria Villarruel, aged 48, is a lawyer and daughter of another criminal, Lieutenant General, Eduardo Villarruel, who also participated alongside Bussi in the bloody ‘’Operation Independence’’ in Tucumán.  In 1987, Villarruel was second captain of the 137th infantry regiment in Chubut province, Rio Mayo when an order from Buenos Aires obliged all military officers to swear an oath of fealty to the democratic constitution that Captain Villarruel opposed, for which he was condemned to 40 days in prison and finally sacked from the military. 

He was never prosecuted for his crimes while his daughter Victoria, proudly touts his “exploits.” Her political program aims  to re-write history books with the support of her denialist Center for Legal Research on Terrorism and its Victims (Centro de Estudios Legales sobre el Terrorismo y sus Victimas, CELTYV) and pardon the thousand prosecuted and convicted criminals of the dictatorship. 

Beyond their personal and family past, both Milei and Villarruel have cultivated links with their European and US counterparts. Along with Eduardo Bolsonaro (son of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro) and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, they signed the reactionary October 26, 2020 Madrid Charter, sponsored by the right-wing Spanish party Vox, whose leading spokesman, Herman Tertsch, is the son of Ekkehard Tertsch, a former member of the Austrian Sturmabteilung (SA) and from 1943 onwards, Adolph Hitler’s media boss in Spain during the early years of the Franco dictatorship.

The American right wing is also enamored with Milei, who was a featured speaker at the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Brazil in June 2022, and again in Mexico in November 2022, where he received a standing ovation. Former Fox News political commentator even Tucker Carlson interviewed Milei in Buenos Aires on September 14, 2023.

The Authoritarian Socio-Economic Proposals of Javier Milei

The Milei-Villarruel ticket claims to be able to solve the grievous economic situation in Argentina. They have camouflaged the brutal economics of the fascist era and carried it forward under the weird, neo-synthetic nomenclature of “anarcho-capitalism,” a construct which much of the Western press has obligingly adopted. Milei’s libertarian economics devolves into a land of dog-eat-dog economic culture of Ayn Randian / Nietzschean super-rich, where ordinary workers are merely shadows on the wall of a Platonic cave.

Milei has even explicitly proposed making the US dollar Argentina´s legal currency replacing the peso. In a singularly ghoulish effort to strengthen the economy, he advocates for dismantling and privatizing the public health system and creating a bank for the sale of human organs, which he has described as ‘’just another market.’’

Apart from the closure of the Central Bank and his dollarization idea, Milei’s brutal economic proposals aim for the heist of the century on behalf of his economic patrons, proposing the privatization of energy, gas, electricity, and the country’s precious lithium reserves. Additionally, Milei seeks to ban social protests and trade unions as well as to promote his cynical agendas including underage labor.  He also intends to reduce the size of the government and cut spending on social policies by dissolving 11 ministries: Education, Health, Public Transportation, Employment, Science and Innovation, Employment and Social Security, and last but not least, that of Women, Gender, and Diversity.

After the last televised debate between the center-left candidate Sergio Massa and Milei, the latter accused his opponent of political fraud regarding the ballots in the northern provinces where Milei’s party is well behind Massa’s. This cynical incident indicates the dangerous intentions of the Milei-Villarruel ticket regarding electoral results: in case of an electoral defeat, Milei could be tempted to follow the example of Trump and Bolsonaro of destabilizing the country’s democratic institutions, 40 years after the fall of the military dictatorship in Argentina.

Leandro Fernandez

About Leandro Fernandez