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ARGENTINA | 25-02-2024 09:15

Milei embraces Trump on Washington trip, lectures on economics

President Javier Milei meets Donald Trump during a US conservative conference and said he hopes the Republican leader returns to the White House.

Argentine President President Javier Milei met Donald Trump during a US conservative conference and said he hopes he’ll return to the White House, then delivered a professorial lecture on economics to a crowd more attuned to election-campaign rhetoric.

Milei, a libertarian who won the Presidency in November, crossed paths with Trump backstage on Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, where he greeted him with a shout of “President!” in a video from Trump aide Dan Scavino.

“You were a very great president and I hope you will be again,” Milei — who met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken a day earlier — told Trump as they smiled and laughed.

The former US president gave Milei a shoutout during a speech attacking US President Joe Biden and defending his track record in office.  

“President of Argentina, who’s gotten a lot of publicity, he’s a great gentleman,” Trump told the audience. “You know, he’s MAGA, he’s MAGA — Make Argentina Great Again — he said, ‘I am MAGA’ and then I realised he’s one of the few can really do it well, Make Argentina Great Again.”

Milei chose a different tone in his speech, delivering an hourlong lecture on why neoclassical economics and post-Marxism are flawed. 

Between bouts of hushed applause, Milei brought up “Locke’s theory of appropriation,” “Hayek’s market as a discovery procedure” and added swipes to “irritate Keynesians.” 

He closed with a simpler message, reiterating how he sees himself as a lion.

“Fight for your freedom,” Milei concluded, speaking in Spanish. “Every day we awaken more lions, The message of freedom not only brought us to the presidency of Argentina, but we’re also awakening the whole world.”

The 53-year-old president’s visit to a conference that has become a magnet for pro-Trump Republicans risks straining Milei’s relations with the Biden administration.

In response to a question about the timing, Milei’s spokesman Manuel Adorni told reporters last week “there is no possibility for anything to tarnish our relationship with the United States.”

While Milei’s libertarian bent puts him more in line with a traditional Republican Party camp, he can’t afford to alienate the current Democratic administration: Argentina is counting on US support at the International Monetary Fund for its US$44-billion programme. The government is exploring the possibility of asking for a new IMF programme, Economy Minister Luis Caputo said Wednesday.

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