Tobias Belgrano
Guillermo Moreno. Source: OPI Santa Cruz

The Day After Milei: A New Political Landscape

In a historic turn of events on November 19, 2023, Javier Milei emerged triumphant in Argentina’s presidential election, bringing an end to a four-year era of leftist Peronist governance. The cityscape of Buenos Aires witnessed jubilant scenes as numerous high-class neighborhoods erupted in celebration as the new Libertarian president obtained a crushing victory by an impressive 55% against the incumbent candidate, Sergio Massa.

The defeat of Peronism was the result of four years of a faltering administration. A new political rhetoric was resonating among the voters and came to fruition during Milei’s inaugural speech, in which he aimed to address the simmering anger and frustration within a society worn down by persistent economic crises and instability. With a 211% inflation rate for 2023 and 40% of the population living in poverty, the notion of dismantling the entire political and economic system began to appear as a rational solution to a populace grappling with an inability to envision any hopeful future.

In such a harrowing context, internal scars were left behind, vividly portrayed by the image of wounded soldiers. In a political entity like the Peronist party, defeat is perceived not merely as a mistake but as a regrettable fault, which automatically  initiates the period of pointing fingers.

At first, the responsibility for shouldering the defeat rested on the former Minister of Economy, Sergio Massa, who had been endorsed by the Vice President, Mrs. Cristina Kirchner, as candidate for the Presidential election. This alliance between Kirchner and Massa aimed not only to secure electoral success but also to diminish the influence of President Alberto Fernandez, whose role in his own government had become by the end of his term almost symbolic.

Guillermo Moreno and Axel Kicillof at the executive meeting of Papel Prensa.
Source: Nexofin

Nevertheless, the defeat did not mark the end for Kirchnerism. Axel Kicillof, the political protégé of the Vice President, emerged victorious in the election and secured the position of governor for the Buenos Aires province. His triumph solidified the region as a stronghold for leftist and Kirchnerist ideology.

“Helmet or gloves?”

Following Kicillof’s victory in Buenos Aires, members of the Peronist coalition chose to ignore any opportunity for self-evaluation after the defeat in the national elections. However, certain party members, particularly the former Secretary of Commerce, Guillermo Moreno, emerged as vocal critics. The latter is known for his candid and sharp remarks, and was openly critical of Cristina Kirchner’s endorsement of Alberto Fernandez. His critiques started in 2019 in complete solitude, moving towards his most acid declarations in 2023 when he asserted: “Cristina chose the worst; is there anyone worse than Alberto?”

Diverse narratives surround Moreno’s origins. According to the Perfil newspaper his political activity started as an engaged activist in the National Student Front, a left-leaning faction within the Peronist Party, throughout the seventies. However, in 1972, the front merged with Guardia de Hierro (GH), an emerging Peronist, conservative, and Catholic organization, staunchly opposed to leftist faction Montoneros, whom they denounced as “Marxist infiltrators”.

After the restoration of democracy in 1983, Moreno went on to study Economics at the Argentine University of Enterprise (UADE). Concurrently, he established a hardware business named “Distribuidora América” in the town of San Martín, located in the northern region of Buenos Aires. 

Guillermo Moreno. Source: Infobae

Moreno met Néstor Kirchner in 2002, after 2001’s political turmoil and during the Eduardo Duhalde administration. Following Kirchner’s victory in the presidential election in 2003, Moreno was appointed as head of the Secretary of Communications, tasked with regulating telecommunications and postal services in the country. But after three years in the position, he resigned to assume the position of Secretary of Internal Commerce.

Moreno’s time in Commerce Marked a turning point in his political career, it was a period characterized by interventionist policies in the Argentine market as a whole. He became a brutal adversary for the private sector, coercing major businesses to halt repricing in an inflationary process through a coercive strategy. Moreno’s aim was to gain the sympathy of the workers who saw how aggressively he fought against the companies who intended to increase prices.

During his administration, he was also a visible and aggressive adversary of the Clarin media group, aligning himself with the official position of the government. The pinnacle of his confrontational ways occurred in 2010 when Moreno stormed into an executive meeting of Papel Prensa, a corporation specialized in newsprint production, representing the state’s interests within the company. Wearing boxing gloves, he shouted, “Helmet or gloves? I have a helmet and I have gloves. What do you want? There’s a choice between a helmet or gloves because the judge said we have to behave ourselves.”

Moreno’s methodologies left a lasting trauma that lingers to this day among high level businessmen. When Alberto Fernández assumed the presidency in 2019, business leaders expressed concerns regarding the potential replication of a “Moreno” in the Secretary of Internal Commerce. Fernández responded by criticizing the former Secretary: “The last thing I would do is copy measures from Guillermo Moreno; he did a lot of harm to Argentina.”

A youthful activist proudly bears a tattoo depicting the face of Guillermo Moreno.
Source: Guillermo Moreno’s social media

A new strategy for a new society.

In the recent election, Argentine politics experienced a notable transformation, symbolizing a broader shift in modern political landscapes. Javier Milei, akin to Guillermo Moreno, initially gained prominence through televised analyses of the economy, characterized by vocal critics of the prevailing status quo and aggressive declarations on the established political order. Recipes such as these involve strong leadership and the advocacy of radical positions which resonate within postmodern societies, seeking to return to a past order in response to the chaos of the post-COVID era.

Moreno has adopted a similar playbook. In the initial days of Javier Milei’s ascendancy, he strategically deployed the slogan of “Starting the Peronist counterrevolution”. His tactics involve pitting the liberal vision embraced by Milei against a backdrop of conservative nationalism and Catholic ideology.

By acknowledging the disaster of the Peronist administration and aligning himself with the emerging right-wing political sentiment, Moreno successfully obtained the respect of numerous journalists who lean towards Libertarian ideologies, including figures like Alejandro Fantino. Notably, Moreno adeptly engaged with social media platforms, leveraging viral reels on TikTok and Instagram. This strategy not only helped him disseminate his ideas but also enabled him to connect with the younger generations, in a parallel to the Libertarians’ tactics in 2023. 

Simultaneously, Moreno is navigating an internal battle against what he perceives as the co-opting of Peronism by progressive ideals in recent years. According to his perspective, issues such as feminism, LGBTIQ rights, and environmental agendas have emerged as distractions, diverting attention from what “genuine Peronism” deems as the needs of the Argentine people: “The only alternative to Milei’s failure is Peronism. Not progressivism. Not this disgust that has just left. The doctrinaire Peronists, those of the prosperous decade, we are the only solution.”

Guillermo Moreno and Pope Francis. Source: LPO

Axel Kicillof would be the embodiment of these progressive ideals. Additionally, he is conditioned by his role as governor to exhibit some level of responsibility, contrasting with Moreno ‘s display of wild impudence. Such a scenario echoes a similar situation between Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, the governor of Buenos Aires Capital City, and Patricia Bullrich. The latter, now Minister of Security of Javier Milei, secured victory in the 2023 primaries by appealing to the voters with radical and ultra-right rhetoric.

Moreno has criticized Kicillof’s prowess as an economist, with the governor having served as the Minister of Economy in Cristina Kirchner’s administration from 2012 to 2015. During his tenure, the government implemented a currency devaluation in 2014, which, according to Moreno, marked the culmination of the “Golden Decade” between 2003 and 2013. As is customary, the former Secretary of Commerce employs straightforward language, offering easily digestible phrases, such as, “(I)n 2001, he was managing a café that ultimately closed due to bankruptcy.”

Moreno’s ability to strategically adapt in aligning himself with the shifting political landscape should not come as a surprise given the historical dynamics within Peronism, where internal outsiders have consistently risen to prominence and defeated politically established leaders. History can count numerous examples of such occurrences, such as the emergence of the relatively unknown Carlos Menem against the powerful governor of Buenos Aires, Antonio Cafiero, as well as the ascent of the leftist Nestor Kirchner over the seasoned leader Carlos Menem.

In the realm of postmodern politics, a transformative strategy has emerged, aptly named the “Big Bang approach.” This phenomenon sees politicians adopting populist strategies and radical positions to solidify support from loyal followers, reminiscent of Donald Trump’s pioneering use in 2016. Figures like Javier Milei, Jair Bolsonaro, Giorgia Meloni, and others demonstrate new examples of this political methodology. 

It is not casual that X, formerly Twitter, is the social media site that such politicians use to frequently communicate with their radicalized electorate. Notably, the Big Bang approach disrupts and reshapes established systems when opportune conditions arise, resembling the dynamics of a Big Bang. Even Peronism seems to have recognized and embraced this evolving political playbook, marking a significant shift in its recent political communication strategy of “political correctness”.

Guillermo Moreno and Maradona. Source: A24

As Argentina’s political future remains uncertain, the desire for change in society has reached Peronism itself. The new era seems to be guided by the commitment to three foundational principles: God, Fatherland, and Family. This concise encapsulation suggests a return to traditional values and reflects a potential shift towards a more conservative orientation within the evolving landscape of Argentine politics.

Suggested further readings:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

(Analysis) THE NIGHTMARE …

by Tobias Belgrano time to read: 7 min