After presidential race surprise, Argentine economy minister and right-wing populist look to runoff

Argentina’s economy minister and the anti-establishment upstart he faces in a presidential runoff next month began competing Monday to shore up the moderate voters they need.

Economy Minister Sergio Massa earned almost seven points more than chainsaw-wielding economist and freshman lawmaker Javier Milei in Sunday’s vote. Most polls had shown Mr. Massa slightly trailing, as voters had been expected to punish him for triple-digit inflation that has eaten away at purchasing power and boosted poverty.

On November 19, voters will either choose Mr. Massa, despite the economic deterioration that took place on his watch, or place their hopes in a self-described anarcho-capitalist who promises a drastic shake-up of South America’s second-largest economy.

Mr. Milei’s fiery rhetoric and radical proposals — like slashing subsidies that benefit a large swath of the population and replacing the local currency with the dollar — galvanised die-hard supporters, but cost him support among more moderate voters.

Mr. Massa focused his messaging in the latter part of the campaign on how Mr. Milei’s budget-slashing chainsaw would negatively affect citizens already struggling to make ends meet, with a particular focus on how much public transportation prices in Buenos Aires would increase without subsidies, said Mariel Fornoni of the political consulting firm Management and Fit.

That “had a significant impact and evidently instilled more fear than anything else,” Ms. Fornoni said.

Mr. Massa once again showed his Peronist party’s power to mobilise Argentine voters. A political movement named after former President Juan Domingo Perón that has both left- and right-wing factions but broadly believes in social justice and workers’ rights, Peronism has been a dominant force and in this election cycle emerged as the only viable left-leaning option.

Right-wing votes were divided between Mr. Milei, former Security Minister Patricia Bullrich of the main opposition coalition and another candidate, Cordoba province’s Governor Juan Schiaretti. Ms. Bullrich finished third in the field of five candidates, and the runoff will be decided by where her voters ultimately migrate.

She said in her concession speech Sunday night that she wouldn’t congratulate Mr. Massa on his victory because he was part of “Argentina’s worst government,” and that her coalition would never support “the mafias that have destroyed this country.” She stopped short of endorsing Mr. Milei, however.

During the campaign, Mr. Milei harshly criticised Ms. Bullrich as part of the entrenched elite that required purging, but he sought to appeal to her voters in a radio interview Monday, suggesting that they should focus on the bigger picture.

“Everyone who wants to change Argentina, who wants to embrace the ideas of freedom, are welcome,” Mr. Milei said. “It’s not a matter of labels; it’s a matter of who wants to be on this side.”

Asked in a news conference Monday whether he foresees challenges in siphoning support away from Ms. Bullrich, Mr. Massa responded that “leaders aren’t the owners of votes” and that several views espoused by Mr. Milei “have nothing to do with our culture and the values of the average Argentine citizen.”

Mr. Massa also said he would not want his government to be characterized as only Peronist.

“I believe it’s a mistake to suggest that the upcoming phase should be tied solely to Peronism. We are heading toward a government of national unity. I will call upon the best from various political forces, regardless of their origin,” Mr. Massa said.

Mr. Massa had already told voters that he inherited a bad economic situation exacerbated by a devastating drought that decimated exports. He reassured them that the worst was past.

With nearly all ballots counted Monday, Mr. Massa, 51, had 36.7% of the vote and Mr. Milei, 53, had 30%. Ms. Bullrich got 23.8%

In his radio interview, Mr. Milei characterised Mr. Massa’s results as the minister’s “ceiling” and said his showing marked a “floor”.

Mauro Salvatore, a 23-year-old programmer, said outside Milei’s campaign headquarters Sunday night that he is optimistic Mr. Milei will pick up the votes that went to Bullrich in the first round.

“We have a clear possibility. We find ourselves in a situation we knew wouldn’t be easy, but you can see the Argentine people are tired and really want change, independent of whether it will be Milei or Bullrich,” said Mr. Salvatore. “We have a lot of faith that some of Bullrich’s voters can be taken, given it’s understood they have more inclination toward Milei’s ideas than Massa’s.”

Analysts, however, questioned whether those votes would automatically transfer to him. Some of the more progressive elements of Ms. Bullrich’s coalition were already making clear Monday they would not support Mr. Milei, who has raged against the so-called “political caste,” vowed to eliminate half the government ministries and slash public spending.

And some analysts warned a runoff scenario may not be conducive to Mr. Milei’s combative style.

Mr. Milei is “an inexperienced candidate, lacking political expertise, who perhaps may not have the capacity to understand that the current scenario will require him to moderate, build political agreements, and appeal to voters who might ask for changes in his political proposal,” said Lucas Romero, head of Synopsis, a local political consultancy.

Mr. Milei’s casting himself as a culture warrior against the creep of the so-called “socialist agenda” appears to be a headwind, said Benjamin Gedan, director of the Latin America Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center. Mr. Milei has been endorsed by Brazil’s former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and says he shares a common mission with former U.S. President Donald Trump. Some supporters wear hats that read “Make Argentina Great Again”.

Mr. Gedan described Milei’s opposition to abortion and gun control, among other positions, as “out of sync with Argentine society”.

Sovereign bonds plunged Monday and there was a selloff in Argentine equities as the market predicted that Mr. Massa’s first-round surprise means the government has little incentive to correct any of the economy’s imbalances for now. In the run-up to the vote, Mr. Massa boosted welfare programs and implemented tax cuts that benefited almost all registered workers, going against calls from the International Monetary Fund for austerity and removal of subsidies.

Mr. Massa “was able to build over the last two months through some tax holidays and other giveaways that could be fairly deemed populist,” said Brian Winter, a longtime Argentina expert and vice president of the New York-based Council of the Americas. “It’s going to be really interesting to hear what he says in the next few weeks, because he will need to win over some more moderate voters in order to win.”

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Argentine economy minister bags surprise win over chainsaw-wielding populist in presidential poll

Economy Minister Sergio Massa produced a big surprise by finishing first in the opening round of Argentina’s presidential election, reflecting voters’ wariness about handing the presidency to his chief rival, a right-wing populist who upended national politics and pledged to drastically diminish the state.

Massa’s victory over Javier Milei, a chainsaw-wielding economist and freshman lawmaker, came despite the fact that on his watch inflation has surged into triple digits, eating away at purchasing power of salaries and boosting poverty. Still, he wasn’t punished in Sunday’s voting. 

With nearly all balots counted early Monday, Massa had 36.7% of the vote and Milei had 30%, meaning the two will go to a Nov. 19 runoff. Most pre-election polls, which have been notoriously unreliable, had given Milei a slight lead over Massa. Former Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, of the main center-right opposition coalition, got 23.8% to finish third in the field of eight candidates. 

Massa has been a leading figure in the center-left administration in power since 2019. He successfully focused messaging on the way Milei’s proposals to slash the size of the state — from halving the number of government ministries to deep spending cuts — would affect everyday life for Argentines, said Mariel Fornoni of the political consulting firm Management & Fit.

That “had a significant impact and evidently instilled more fear than anything else,” Fornoni said.

Andrei Roman, CEO of Brazil-based pollster Atlas Intel, whose latest survey had been one of few putting Massa ahead, said one key to the result was lower abstention than in the primary elections held in August. Around 78% of the electorate voted Sunday, some eight points higher than in the primaries that Milei won. 

Milei, a self-described anarcho-capitalist who admires former U.S. President Donald Trump, built a groundswell of support while calling for elimination of the Central Bank, replacement of the local currency with the U.S. dollar, and a purge of the corrupt establishment that he called the “political caste.” 

His radical proposals and fiery, profanity-laden rhetoric caused some Argentines to vote for Massa, even if less than enthusiastically. Cristian Ariel Jacobsen, a 38-year-old photographer, said he voted for Massa to prevent Milei’s “project that puts democracy at risk.”

A sense of apprehension was evident on the streets of Argentina in the days before the election. People with any disposable income snapped up goods in anticipation of a possible currency devaluation, recalling that the government devalued the peso by nearly 20% the day after the August primaries. Argentines also bought dollars and removed hard currency deposits from banks as the peso accelerated its already steady depreciation.

Massa’s campaign this year follows another eight years ago, when he finished a disappointing third place and was knocked out of the running. This time, he will have his shot in the runoff. That contest will determine whether Argentina will continue with a center-left administration or veer sharply to the right. 

Massa, 51, finished first in Sunday’s vote despite inflation surging to 140% on his watch and the currency tanking. He told voters that he inherited an already-bad situation exacerbated by a devastating drought that decimated the country’s exports, and reassured them that the worst was past. 

He focused much of his firepower in the campaign’s final days on warning voters against backing Milei, painting him as a dangerous upstart. He argued that Milei’s plans could have devastating effects on social welfare programs, education and health care. The health, education and social development ministries are among those Milei wants to extinguish.

Right-wing support was split between Milei and two other candidates, whereas Massa had already consolidated nearly all support from the left, Atlas Intel’s Roman said. 

Massa sent a signal Sunday night that he would seek to appeal to members of other parties for the runoff.

“I’m going to call for a government of national unity — a government of national unity built on the foundation of summoning the best individuals, regardless of their political affiliation,” he said.

He also could find common interest with other longserving public servants, many of whom have bristled at Milei’s candidacy and the threats it posed. 

Milei, who turned 53 on election day, has characterized Massa and others as part of the entrenched and corrupt establishment that brought South America’s second-largest economy to its knees. 

“Today is historic because two-thirds of Argentines voted for change,” Milei said in a speech Sunday night at his campaign headquarters. “They voted for an alternative to this government of criminals who want to mortgage our future to stay in power.” 

He also has cast himself as a crusader against what he calls the sinister forces of socialism at home and abroad. He opposes sex education, feminist policies and abortion, which is legal in Argentina. He rejects the notion that humans have had a role in causing climate change. 

That may have turned off some voters, said Benjamin Gedan director of the Latin America Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center. 

Running as an anti-establishment candidate, Milei was the undisputed star of the campaign. So many people surrounded his vehicle as he approached his polling station that he needed a phalanx of bodyguards. Groups of supporters threw flower petals on his car. 

“There was this sense of inevitability around Javier Milei in the media, but he scared too many voters and ended up with the exact same level of support he had two months ago,” said Brian Winter, a longtime Argentina expert and vice president of the New York-based Council of the Americas. “And now I think we have a really uncertain race. It’s going to be really tight.”

In his speech Sunday night, Milei appeared to try to appeal to those who may have trembled at his bombastic speeches, and regain his edge.

“We didn’t come here to take away rights; we came to take away privileges,” he said. 

Whatever the results, Milei has already inserted himself and his libertarian party into a political structure dominated by a center-left and a center-right coalition for almost two decades. He was celebratory at his campaign headquarters, saying the preliminary results indicated his party gained 40 seats in the lower house of Congress and eight in the Senate. 

Still, supporters outside expressed disappointment.

“I won’t lie; I feel a certain bitterness,” said Gaston Yapur, a 35-year-old coffee importer. “But, well, it’s a runoff; we mustn’t give up. He who fights isn’t defeated, and we must keep fighting the battle.”


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Don’t cry for Milei, Argentina: Peso plunges after populist’s triumph

Populist Javier Milei won the Presidential primary poll in Argentina, triggering turmoil in financial markets.

The Argentine peso plunged this week after an anti-establishment candidate who admires former President Donald Trump came first in primary elections that will help determine the country’s next president.


Javier Milei rocked Argentina’s political establishment by receiving the biggest share of primary votes for presidential candidates in the October general election to decide who leads a nation battered by economic woes.

Milei, 52, wants to replace the peso with the dollar and says that Argentina’s Central Bank should be abolished. He has said that climate change is a lie and has characterised sex education as a ploy to destroy the family. He has also said that the sale of human organs should be legal.

Gun ownership is severely restricted in Argentina. Milei proposes the “deregulation of the legal market” for weapons and “the protection of its legitimate and responsible use by the citizens,” according to his party’s electoral platform.

Argentina’s government decided to devalue the local currency by 20% early Monday morning after the surprising Sunday showing. Two mainstream political coalitions have traded power for a decade in Argentina. The country is now the latest where voters have picked an outsider candidate to express anger against the status quo.

Christopher Sabatini, a Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House in London told Euronews that Javier Milei’s popularity is symptomatic of a sense of political malaise among voters in many countries.

He said: “There is a sense that there’s been no political renovation, that politicians are unaccountable. But also the sense of profound economic insecurity that’s driving this. When people don’t trust their politicians, when they don’t trust their institutions, they look for extreme answers outside the system”.

Operators were watching nervously Monday as the value of the peso also decreased in the parallel, or blue, market, dropping 12% by early afternoon.

Milei said the government was trying to blame his victory for the depreciation of the currency.

“One of the things the government is trying to convey is that devaluation and all these things are our fault,” Milei said in an interview Monday with cable news channel LN+.

The drop in the value of the peso means that already-high inflation will accelerate, making getting to the end of the month even harder for ordinary people.

“The more the dollar rises, the more expensive things become,” Marta Gisela Barrera, a 29-year-old urban recycler who has trouble buying enough food for her four children, said on Monday morning. “I don’t know what’s going to happen anymore.”


Argentina requires that citizens vote, with a symbolic financial penalty for not voting, and 69% of the country’s 35 million voters went to the polls, each choosing candidates for positions ranging from local councilman to president. It marked the lowest participation for presidential primaries since the current system was set up in 2009.

The major parties had contested races to be its presidential candidate. Milei was uncontested and got a few points more than the candidates of parties that have dominated Argentine politics.

After doing much better than expected, the upstart candidate with long sideburns and shaggy hair who gained notoriety and a rockstar-like following by angrily ranting against the “political caste” is now a real contender for the presidency.

“We’ve had 40 years of failures, don’t tell me this time will be different. The central problem is that the solution to the problem is in the hands of the same problem, which is the politicians,” Milei said in the LN+ interview.

In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro was president from 2019 to 2022 and had a similar anti-left and anti-social justice orientation. Right-wing populists are also making inroads with a tough-on-crime message, most notably in El Salvador, where the popularity of President Nayib Bukele has soared amid a crackdown on gangs that has led to human rights abuses.


If he were to win “my allies would be the United States and Israel,” Millei said, adding he would move Argentina’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following in Trump’s footsteps.

With around 97% of polling locations reporting, Milei had around 30% of the total vote, according to official results. The candidates in the main opposition coalition, United for Change, were at 28% and the governing Union for the Homeland coalition had 27%.

In order to win the vote in two months, Milei would have to increase his share of the nation’s votes by 15%, a high hurdle even in a nation where voters tend to favour candidates they see as winners.

If one candidate doesn’t receive 45% of the vote, they would need 40% and a 10-point lead over the second-place candidate. Otherwise, the race would go to a November runoff between the top two.

Celebrating in his election headquarters, Milei vowed to bring “an end to the parasitic, corrupt and useless political caste that exists in this country.”


“Today we took the first step toward the reconstruction of Argentina,” he said. “A different Argentina is impossible with the same people as always.”

In Buenos Aires on Monday, Milei’s supporters seemed most excited about someone new coming into the scene.

“We always end up going back to the other party, then the other comes back, and it’s a cycle that keeps us in the same situation,” Clara Costa, a 54-year-old administrative assistant, said.

Milei has been a lawmaker in the lower house of Argentina’s Congress since 2021.

Argentina is struggling with annual inflation of over 100%, rising poverty and a rapidly depreciating currency, and Milei first attracted wider support by calling for the country to replace the peso with the U.S. dollar.

Milei would need Congress to support that and that would be highly unlikely. As a result, he has said he would push for a referendum or a non-binding popular vote on the issue, although it’s also unclear if he would be able to push that through without the support of lawmakers.

Asked about the vote in Argentina, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated that inflation and economic crises “always benefit the right and conservatism, which is somewhat what’s happening in Argentina,” and he mentioned the case of Hitler. He immediately made clear he wasn’t making a direct comparison between the two but said it was “important to remember” that “inflation actually helped” Hitler rise to power.

Bolsonaro’s lawmaker son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, celebrated the results, characterising them on social media as “an excellent start to what could be the real change that Argentina needs.” Days before the primaries, former President Bolsonaro published a short video wishing Milei luck in the election.

The main opposition coalition, United for Change, moved more to the right as former Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, who made toughness on crime a centrepiece of her campaign, handily beat a more centrist contender.

In the currently governing coalition, Union for the Homeland, the more business-friendly candidate — Economy Minister Sergio Massa — easily beat a leftist contender but still took an overall beating from voters frustrated over the poor state of the economy, finishing in third place for total votes.

At Milei’s electoral headquarters, party leaders were ecstatic while people celebrated outside, expressing optimism that their candidate’s support would only grow in the run-up to October.

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Zika Virus Infection Fast Facts | CNN


Here’s a look at Zika virus, an illness spread through mosquito bites that can cause birth defects and other neurological defects.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and CNN

Zika virus is a flavivirus, part of the same family as yellow fever, West Nile, chikungunya and dengue fever.

Zika is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected female Aedes aegypti mosquito. It becomes infected from biting an infected human and then transmits the virus to another person. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is an aggressive species, active day and night and usually bites when it is light out. The virus can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her fetus, through sexual contact, blood transfusion or by needle.

The FDA approved the first human trial of a Zika vaccine in June 2016. As of May 2022, there is still no available vaccine or medication.

Cases including confirmed, probable or suspected cases of Zika in US states and territories updated by the CDC.

Most people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms. If there are symptoms, they will last for a few days to a week.

Fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes) are the most common symptoms. Some patients may also experience muscle pain or headaches.

Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly, a neurological disorder that results in babies being born with abnormally small heads. Microcephaly can cause severe developmental issues and sometimes death. A Zika infection may cause other birth defects, including eye problems, hearing loss and impaired growth. Miscarriage can also occur.

An August 2018 report published by the CDC estimates that nearly one in seven babies born to women infected with the Zika virus while pregnant had one or more health problems possibly caused by the virus, including microcephaly.

According to the CDC, there is no evidence that previous infection will affect future pregnancies.

(Sources: WHO, CDC and CNN)

1947 – The Zika virus is first discovered in a monkey by scientists studying yellow fever in Uganda’s Zika forest.

1948 – The virus is isolated from Aedes africanus mosquito samples in the Zika forest.

1964 – First active case of Zika virus found in humans. While researchers had found antibodies in the blood of people in both Uganda and in Tanzania as far back as 1952, this is the first known case of the active virus in humans. The infected man developed a pinkish rash over most of his body but reported the illness as “mild,” with none of the pain associated with dengue and chikungunya.

1960s-1980s – A small number of countries in West Africa and Asia find Zika in mosquitoes, and isolated, rare cases are reported in humans.

April-July 2007 – The first major outbreak in humans occurs on Yap Island, Federated States of Micronesia. Of the suspected 185 cases reported, 49 are confirmed, and 59 are considered probable. There are an additional 77 suspected cases. No deaths are reported.

2008 – Two American researchers studying in Senegal become ill with the Zika virus after returning to the United States. Subsequently, one of the researchers transmits the virus to his wife.

2013-2014 – A large outbreak of Zika occurs in French Polynesia, with about 32,000 suspected cases. There are also outbreaks in the Pacific Islands during this time. An uptick in cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome during the same period suggests a possible link between the Zika virus and the rare neurological syndrome. However, it was not proven because the islands were also experiencing an outbreak of dengue fever at the time.

March 2015 – Brazil alerts the WHO to an illness with skin rash that is present in the northeastern region of the country. From February 2015 to April 29, 2015, nearly 7,000 cases of illness with a skin rash are reported. Later in the month, Brazil provides additional information to WHO on the illnesses.

April 29, 2015 – A state laboratory in Brazil informs the WHO that preliminary samples have tested positive for the Zika virus.

May 7, 2015 – The outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil prompts the WHO and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to issue an epidemiological alert.

October 30, 2015 – Brazil reports an increase in the cases of microcephaly, babies born with abnormally small heads: 54 cases between August and October 30.

November 11, 2015 – Brazil declares a national public health emergency as the number of newborns with microcephaly continues to rise.

November 27, 2015 – Brazil reports it is examining 739 cases of microcephaly.

November 28, 2015 – Brazil reports three deaths from Zika infection: two adults and one newborn.

January 15 and 22, 2016 – The CDC advises all pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant to postpone travel or consult their physicians prior to traveling to any of the countries where Zika is active.

February 2016 – The CDC reports Zika virus in brain tissue samples from two Brazilian babies who died within a day of birth, as well as in fetal tissue from two miscarriages providing the first proof of a potential connection between Zika and the rising number of birth defects, stillbirths and miscarriages in mothers infected with the virus.

February 1, 2016 – The WHO declares Zika a Public Health Emergency of International Concern due to the increase of neurological disorders, such as microcephaly, in areas of French Polynesia and Brazil.

February 8, 2016 – The CDC elevates its Emergency Operations Center for Zika to Level 1, the highest level of response at the CDC.

February 26, 2016 – Amid indications that the mosquito-borne Zika virus is causing microcephaly in newborns, the CDC advises pregnant women to “consider not going” to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The CDC later strengthens the advisory, telling pregnant women, “Do not go to the Olympics.”

March 4, 2016 – The US Olympic Committee announces the formation of an infectious disease advisory group to help the USOC establish “best practices regarding the mitigation, assessment and management of infectious disease, paying particular attention to how issues may affect athletes and staff participating in the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

April 13, 2016 – During a press briefing, CDC Director Thomas Frieden said, “It is now clear the CDC has concluded that Zika does cause microcephaly. This confirmation is based on a thorough review of the best scientific evidence conducted by CDC and other experts in maternal and fetal health and mosquito-borne diseases.”

May 27, 2016 – More than 100 prominent doctors and scientists sign an open letter to WHO Director General Margaret Chan, calling for the summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro to be postponed or moved “in the name of public health” due to the widening Zika outbreak in Brazil.

July 8, 2016 – Health officials in Utah report the first Zika-related death in the continental United States.

August 1, 2016 – Pregnant women and their partners are advised by the CDC not to visit the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood as four cases of the disease have been reported in the small community and local mosquitoes are believed to be spreading the infection.

September 19, 2016 – The CDC announces that it has successfully reduced the population of Zika-carrying mosquitoes in Wynwood and lifts its advisory against travel to the community.

November 18, 2016 – The WHO declares that the Zika virus outbreak is no longer a public health emergency, shifting the focus to long-term plans to research the disease and birth defects linked to the virus.

November 28, 2016 – Health officials announce Texas has become the second state in the continental United States to confirm a locally transmitted case of Zika virus.

September 29, 2017 – The CDC deactivates its emergency response for Zika virus, which was activated in January 2016.

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