Argentina’s right-wing populist presidential candidate Javier Milei met with International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials to explain his economic proposals for the country, days after he became a surprise front-runner in the election. in October.
During a virtual meeting that lasted a little over an hour on Friday, Milei and members of his economic team assured IMF officials that they have no intention of stopping payments to the multilateral organization or not pay off any national debts.
The officials who attended included the head of the Western Hemisphere Department of the IMF, Rodrigo Valdes.
“We will not default on the IMF or the sovereign debt,” Milei told IMF officials, according to a message posted on social media by Dario Epstein, one of the candidate’s key economic advisers. .
Milei, an anti-establishment conservative, campaigned to abolish the Central Bank and replace the local currency with the dollar. On Sunday, he shocked the South American country’s political establishment by receiving the most votes in the national primaries.
Argentina, which has suffered economic hardship for years and suffered from a devastating drought that damaged the country’s crops, currently has a 30-month $44bn loan program in place IMF.
In Friday’s meeting with IMF officials, Milei outlined the economic platform for his Liberty Advances party, including “a significant fiscal adjustment, more significant than the one requested by the IMF”, according to a statement issued by the candidate’s campaign.
Milei and his team also discussed their goals of opening up the economy, modernizing labor laws, reducing spending through deep state reforms and implementing “monetary reform that ending with the Central Bank”.
Milei, 52, has gained a rockstar-like following by raging against the “political caste” of television. He received 30 percent of the votes in the country’s national primaries, compared to 28 percent for the main opposition bloc and 27 percent for the current ruling coalition.
The primary results are seen as an indication of how citizens are likely to vote when they go to the polls in October.
But experts say the support for Milei is not entirely driven by ideology but expresses disillusionment with politics in general. “They are not right-wing votes. They are votes without politics,” Carlos Fara, a political analyst in Buenos Aires, told Al Jazeera earlier this week.
Valeria Brusco, a political scientist who studies Milei, said that the economic crisis has led to “great frustration” among Argentine voters.
“Yesterday, someone said to me, ‘I feel angry with conventional politicians because what they always do is what brought us here,'” he told Al Jazeera.
Milei’s meeting with the IMF was also not unusual. Citing an anonymous official, The Associated Press news agency reported that IMF representatives also met with Patricia Bullrich, the presidential candidate for the main opposition coalition – United for Change – earlier in the week.
The discussions are about “routine engagements with a wide spectrum of political and economic stakeholders”, the official said.
The government devalued the peso by nearly 20 percent and raised benchmark interest rates after Milei’s victory, roiling markets amid uncertainty over what a presidency would look like under a politician who describes himself as an “anarcho-capitalist”.
The peso has also depreciated significantly in informal markets, leading to soaring consumer prices in a country already experiencing a rapid annual inflation of more than 100 percent.
Sunday’s primary serves to select the presidential candidates of the political parties and confirm their participation in the October vote. Only three parties have cleared the 1.5 percent threshold required to book a place in the general election.
Milei and Bullrich will face off against Minister of Economy Sergio Massa. To win outright in October, a candidate must get at least 45 percent of the vote or 40 percent if they are more than 10 points ahead of their nearest opponent.
Otherwise, the third and final round of voting between the top two voters will be held in November.