World News

Argentina Needs a New President Who Is Trustworthy

Argentina goes to the polls Sunday, November 19, to elect a new president. Voters will choose between Sergio Massa, the Minister of Economy, and Javier Milei, a libertarian, populist candidate. While Sergio Massa has shown that he has the credibility to restore confidence to the financial markets and foreign investors, Javier Milei represents a big political unknown. Argentina needs stability in order to grow its economy and get out of its current financial rut.
Sergio Massa

Buenos Aires, Argentina – August 8, 2023; Sergio Massa at the Gran Rex theater, giving his speech at the Chief of Government candidate, Leando Santoro, campaign closing act before the PASO elections. © PetraPiedra /

November 16, 2023 02:31 EDT

The unfolding electoral drama in Argentina has attracted significant interest from the entire Western world, especially the United States. In the first round of the presidential election, held on October 22, Minister of Economy Sergio Massa finished in first place. He secured 36.69% of the vote, defying many pollsters’ predictions. Libertarian economist Javier Milei, frequently led pre-electoral surveys and was expected to come out on top. He achieved the disappointing result of 29.9%. Now, the two leaders will go to a runoff election.

Two distinct political courses and profiles

Many thought that Massa’s electoral results would have been compromised by the country’s economic challenges like high inflation and constant currency devaluation. Contrary to what these detractors believed, voters appear to have appreciated Massa’s leadership during these troubled times. Massa’s decision last year to leave a comfortable position as Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies for the challenging post of Minister of Economy might have seemed like a political gamble, but Argentinians rewarded his grit.

In addition, the strong relationships that Massa has cultivated with key high-level officials in the United States and international financial institutions represent a pivotal asset, as this will help him to attract trade and foreign investment in the country. 

On the other hand, there is Milei, the self-described “anarcho-capitalist.” Milei generated significant media buzz when he led in the open primaries in August. The unorthodox policies that he has proposed, including eliminating the central bank, dollarizing the economy and massively cutting government spending have resonated with a portion of the electorate that is disillusioned by the current status quo.

The need for stability

It is understandable that some voters are crying out for change. However, Argentina needs to navigate this transformative period with finesse and steady leadership to ensure that its international reputation remains intact. The need of the hour is to reassure markets and foreign investors that Argentina will have predictable policies. Radical policies and populist fervor are rarely, if ever, the answer to economic challenges. They could spook investors who do not want to put their money into an unstable environment.

As outgoing President Alberto Fernández put it to me in our meeting in Buenos Aires last December, at a time of turmoil and global competition between great powers, countries like Argentina find themselves in a tough spot. The nation, while politically appealing, has seen only limited direct and indirect US investments. This is a recurrent challenge that Washington must address, especially when other global players, such as China and Russia, are assertively courting the region.

US President Joe Biden recognizes Argentina’s potential, and he underscored the importance of economic integration between the two countries during the March 2023 meeting with Fernández at the White House. With Argentina’s abundance of energy resources, a skilled workforce and growth opportunities in pivotal sectors like mining and renewables, Biden emphasized that US interest should clearly extend beyond mere rhetoric. In fact, opportunities for cooperation between the United States and Argentina are plenty and straightforward — from tackling Latin American migration challenges and addressing refugee concerns (a top issue for Washington), as Argentina did with Venezuelan refugees, to fostering economic engagements in sectors such as hi-tech, green energy and natural resources.

Furthermore, Argentina has aligned itself in the international arena with the US and the broader Western world in multiple ways. For instance, it has denounced Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and, just recently, offered a strong condemnation of Hamas’ terrorist actions against Israeli civilians. At a time of increasing complexity on the global stage, the importance of this positioning should not be taken for granted.

That is why the United States and other international allies and partners of Argentina are paying attention. Massa has shown policy clarity and has a valuable track record in advocating for closer ties with the United States, Israel and other Western partners. Conversely, Milei represents a big political unknown, which does not bode well with the current state of global affairs.

The November 19 presidential runoff offers a unique opportunity for Argentina to solidify its position. Through asserting its regional influence and fostering stronger ties with the US, Argentina has a chance to redefine its regional and global standing and unlock the potential that many have long believed in. That’s the challenge that the next president will face: harnessing this moment of change to reshape both the near-term and long-term fortunes of the nation.

[Anton Schauble edited this piece.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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