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Milei’s Argentina McCarthyism, Conservatism, and Environmental Deregulation

It was difficult to know what to expect as Argentinian president Javier Milei rose to the podium at Davos in January. Elected on a campaign based on staunch libertarianism and anti-communism, he had built for himself an image as a strong candidate, hell-bent on slashing public spending and getting Argentina’s historically high inflation-rates under control. Indeed, Mr. Milei’s campaign had brought numerous questions about what his presidency might look like. Having alienated himself from his country’s two largest commercial allies, China and Brazil, it seemed his electoral strategy rested on finding common ground with other right-wing personas. Throughout the campaign trail, Milei offered words of praise to international political allies such as former US president Donald Trump, and former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, whereas he offered none but critique to “angry communists” such as Brazil’s current president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva. Now, two months after taking over the Casa Rosada, Argentina’s seat of executive power, his gruff campaign persona had apparently ameliorated.


Under the duress of Argentina’s economic crisis, Milei had, to all intents and purposes, backtracked on his campaign convictions. Seeking to reconcile with his Brazilian and Chinese counterparts, Milei traded in his anti-communist rhetoric for a conciliatory and diplomatic stance. For many, this was a sign that the outspoken anarcho-capitalist Javier Milei had adopted a far more pragmatic approach to international politics than he led on. However, his speech at the WEF’s conference in January had been a stark reminder that the old campaign-minded Milei was still alive and well.


Having achieved internet viraldom, shared by the likes of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Donald Trump on social media, Javier Milei’s speech at Davos was full of his characteristic Mccarthyist fervor. “Today I'm here to tell you that the Western world is in danger”, he opened. “And it is in danger because those who are supposed to have to defend the values of the West are co-opted by a vision of the world that inexorably leads to socialism and thereby to poverty.” Throughout the nearly half hour long speech the Argentinean president attacked feminists, socialists, and the environmental agenda, linking environmentalist concerns with a wider debate on population control and abortion rights.


Two months following his appearance in Davos, Milei’s commitments to his anarcho-capitalist ideals seem ever-more unwavering. The president has banned gender-inclusive language on official documents, spoken at the american Conservative Political Action Conference, and met with Donald Trump in a recent visit to the United States. It is no surprise, then, that Milei has been hailed as a hero by conservatives around the globe. In this sense, his environmental track record mirrors his overall governing strategy.


While it may seem unsurprising that the candidate whose campaign strategy included brandishing a chainsaw and raving about budget cuts has little concern for environmental regulations, the extent to which this is true remains concerning. Milei’s proposed Omnibus legislative package, for one, aims to promote economic growth and control inflation in Argentina through a series of economic reforms. Milei’s so-called “Economic shock therapy” consists on, privatizing Argentinean state enterprises, and altering current legislation as a way to promote a liberal business-driven economy in the country. Among others, Milei’s proposal incurs numerous changes to Argentina’s Law on the Conservation of Forests (Ley de Bosques) and its National Law on the Protection of Glaciers (Ley Nacional de Glaciares).


Under Javier Milei’s sweeping reforms, changes to environmental regulations would strip protected areas of their conservatorial status, and defund national bodies responsible for their protection. Boasting an impressively biodiverse ecosystem, Argentinean biomes such as the Argentinean Gran Chaco, or its southern Glaciers, have become vulnerable to Milei’s “business first” governing directive. Advancing agricultural frontiers in the Northern regions of the country, and Gold-digging under ice shelves in its southern regions have contributed to the encroachment of human activities on these critical environments. However, Milei’s Omnibus package has emerged among a global scenario of increased environmental oversight. 


As Milei has taken over the executive branch in Argentina, the country’s international trade partners have mobilized towards environmental protection and conservation. The European Union’s novel Deforestation Regulation for one, has specifically targeted deforestation in Argentina’s Gran Chaco region among others, such as the Brazilian Cerrado and Amazon Rainforest Biomes. Under the aegis of the EUDR, products hailing from areas cleared in the Gran Chaco after 2023 are disallowed within the European common market. As such, new limitations placed on the private sector may work to counterbalance Milei’s libertarian ideations.

Amidst the unfolding landscape of President Javier Milei's governance in Argentina, the implications of his Omnibus legislative package resonate against a backdrop of evolving global environmental consciousness. While Milei's staunch libertarian principles drive his agenda of deregulation and privatization, the international stage offers a contrasting narrative. The European Union's Deforestation Regulation, specifically targeting vulnerable regions like Argentina's Gran Chaco, introduces a new dimension of accountability for environmental preservation. This regulatory framework, alongside Milei's proposed policies, shapes a complex interplay of economic liberties and ecological responsibilities. As the world witnesses Milei's presidency unfold, it stands at the intersection of traditional libertarian convictions and a rapidly evolving global paradigm of environmental stewardship, highlighting the intricate balance between economic growth and ecological sustainability.


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