Javier Milei and Jair Bolsonaro Are Both Products of Neoliberalism in Its Age of Decay

A Javier Milei banner on November 30, 2023, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Tomas Cuesta / Getty Images)

Javier Milei, who takes office today, prioritized economic over cultural issues in his campaign, unlike his Brazilian kindred spirit Jair Bolsonaro. But the two far-right leaders both reflect the destructive spirit of neoliberalism in its nihilistic phase.

Javier Milei’s recent victory in the Argentine presidential election has left many wondering what place reactionary right-wing politics still holds in Latin America.

Less than a year following the defeat of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and the return of progressive leader Luis Inácio Lula da Silva to the country’s presidency, Milei’s landslide victory in Latin America’s second-largest economy seems to indicate dissonance within the region’s political landscape.

Bound neither by the neoliberalism of the 1990s, nor the “pink tide” of social democracies during the 2000s, Latin American leaders seem to lack a shared goal or vision.

If one followed the 2023 Argentine election, it was not difficult to spot many similarities to Brazil in 2018. And yet the main issues highlighted by Milei and Bolsonaro were, for the most part, radically different. Though both achieved similar results, the problems — or apparent problems — they chose to focus upon varied dramatically.

At first glance, the two candidates seem to represent very different strains of the far right — one is a radical libertarian, the other a hard-line nationalist. Upon closer inspection, however, it seems clear that both forms of right-wing politics derive from the same neoliberal paradigm that has defined reactionary politics not only in Latin America but worldwide since the end of the Cold War.