Javier Milei: the ‘tantric sex instructor’ Trump fan who could be president

Far-right economist who gained shock win in Argentina’s primary elections amid economic devastation

Presidential candidate and far-right libertarian economics professor, Javier Milei
The anti-establishment candidate has pledged to replace the peso with the dollar and abolish the central bank
(Image credit: Alejandro Pagni / AFP via Getty)

A “tantric sex coach” and Donald Trump admirer has capitalised on Argentina’s economic woes to pull off a shock landslide win in the primary elections.

The value of the peso plummeted by more than 20% after Javier Milei, 52, gained more than 30% of the total vote with his coalition, La Libertad Avanza (Liberty Advances) in Sunday’s primaries, in a result that has “upended Argentina’s political universe”, said The Guardian.

The far-right economics professor “shot to daytime TV fame” in the 2010s, a self-described “tantric sex coach who spoke openly about his preference for threesomes”.

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He beat candidates from the governing centre-left Peronist coalition, Union for the Homeland (27%), and the main opposition coalition, hard-right Together for Change (28%), which have traded power back and forth for a decade.

Milei won in 16 out of 24 of the country’s regions, “appealing to voters angry about inflation at 116% and the country’s cost-of-living crisis”, said Sky News. He is frequently compared to Donald Trump, and told the news website Infobae in 2021 that his alignment with the beleaguered former US president was “almost natural”.

The “deeply unpopular” president Alberto Fernandez is not seeking re-election in October, said Al Jazeera, and, against all predictions, Milei goes forward as a “real contender”, said AP News.

Who is Javier Milei?

Milei was born in Buenos Aires in 1970, the son of a bus driver who became a businessman. He decided from a young age to pursue a career in economics, according to El Cronista.

He gained a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees in economics, and has held various high-profile positions including as a government consultant. He has written nine books and more than 50 academic papers.

The “libertarian” economics professor entered the public eye in the early 2010s, said Economist Intelligence, with “blusterous diatribes against the political establishment” in newspapers and television interviews.

He was initially dismissed as a “buffoon”, said The Guardian, but began to attract support by calling for Argentina to replace the peso with the dollar. He founded his far-right coalition in 2021, which secured two seats in the lower house of Argentina’s Congress.

Despite “boasts over his sexual prowess”, Milei “claims to be a staunch Catholic”, said The Telegraph. The “anarcho-capitalist” has “built ties with Spain’s hard-Right Vox party”, and pledged to “spearhead an austerity programme to help pay off the country’s $44 billion debt”.

According to the Buenos Aires Herald, Milei told a journalist that anyone who supports abortion rights is “brainwashed by a homicidal policy”. He said he would hold a referendum on the country’s abortion law, which allows the procedure up to 14 weeks.

Milei has been nicknamed el peluca (“the wig”) for his unkempt hair. He previously sang with a band known for its Rolling Stones covers, and sings songs to his supporters.

He has also pledged to abolish the central bank, which perhaps explains why it devalued the local currency by 22% after the primaries.

What are his chances?

He is an “outsider candidate”, said The Associated Press: a “shaggy-haired”, leather-jacketed singer who has described sex education as “a ploy to destroy the family”, wants to legalise the sale of human organs and believes climate change is a lie.

The primaries are effectively “a dress rehearsal for the general election”, said The Telegraph, as voting is obligatory for most adults. They give a “clear indication” of the favourite.

The results are “a stinging rebuke” to the Peronist Union for the Homeland coalition, said CNN: a reflection of political frustration and a repudiation of Kirchnerism.

It seems unlikely, said The Guardian, that the Peronist candidate and economics minister, Sergio Massa, will win in the first round. Thus Massa might, in a second-round November run-off, face an “unbeatable” alliance of Milei and the hard-right United for Change candidate, Patricia Bullrich.

However, turnout was under 70%, the lowest since primaries were first held in the country a decade ago. To win, Milei will have to increase his share of the country’s votes by 15%, to 45%: “a high hurdle even in a nation where voters tend to favour candidates they see as winners”, said AP News.

Nevertheless, says Al Jazeera, his rise reflects a wider trend in Latin America, of outsiders gaining prominence by “pledging to break up the status quo”.

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Harriet Marsden is a writer for The Week, mostly covering UK and global news and politics. Before joining the site, she was a freelance journalist for seven years, specialising in social affairs, gender equality and culture. She worked for The Guardian, The Times and The Independent, and regularly contributed articles to The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The New Statesman, Tortoise Media and Metro, as well as appearing on BBC Radio London, Times Radio and “Woman’s Hour”. She has a master’s in international journalism from City University, London, and was awarded the "journalist-at-large" fellowship by the Local Trust charity in 2021.