The lion, the wig and the warrior. Who is Javier Milei, Argentina’s president-elect?

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — His legions of fans call him “the madman” and “the wig” due to his ferocity and unruly mop of hair. He refers to himself as “the lion.” He thinks sex education is a Marxist plot to destroy the family, views his cloned mastiffs as his “children with four paws” and has suggested people should be allowed to sell their own vital organs.

He is Javier Milei, Argentina’s next president.

A few years ago, Milei was a television talking head whom bookers loved because his screeds against government spending and the ruling political class boosted ratings. At the time, and up until mere months ago, hardly any political expert believed he had a real shot at becoming president of South America’s second-largest economy.

But Milei, a 53-year-old economist, has rocked Argentina’s political establishment and inserted himself into what has long been effectively a two-party system by amassing a groundswell of support with his prescriptions of drastic measures to rein in soaring inflation and by pledging to crusade against the creep of socialism in society.

At the heart of his economic plan for Argentina is a proposal to replace the local currency, the peso, with the U.S. dollar. He has repeatedly said the only way to end the scourge of inflation, which has topped 140%, is to prevent politicians from continuing to print money. As such, he plans to extinguish the Central Bank.

A self-described “anarcho-capitalist,” Milei’s libertarianism was a novelty for Argentina. He has spoken in favor of loosening the country’s labor laws and promoted a vision of starkly smaller government to boost economic growth. That entails eliminating half of the government ministries, including health and education. As a symbol of the deep cuts he champions, he has at times campaigned with a revving chainsaw in hand.

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Reducing the state’s size dovetails with his calls for the “political caste” to be purged from Argentina’s government, much as former U.S. President Donald Trump spoke of “draining the swamp” in reference to the entrenched establishment. Milei has often drawn comparisons to Trump, a leader he openly admires.

Before entering the public spotlight, Milei was chief economist at Corporación America, one of Argentina’s largest business conglomerates that, among other things, runs most of the country’s airports. He worked there until 2021, when he won his seat as a lawmaker.

Milei doesn’t just see himself as a right-leaning politician, but also as a culture warrior with the mission of shaking up Argentine society. Some of Milei’s positions appear to echo more conservative Republicans in the U.S. while his fiery, profanity-laden rhetoric has already lifted him to prominence in the global culture war that at times overwhelms political discourse in the U.S., neighboring Brazil and elsewhere.

Milei opposes feminist policies and abortion, which Argentina legalized in recent years, and has proposed a plebiscite to repeal the law. He also rejects the notion humans have a role in causing climate change. In a television appearance, he denounced Pope Francis, who is Argentine, as an “imbecile” for defending social justice and called the head of the Roman Catholic Church “the representative of malignance on Earth.”

In the same vein as Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” Milei has said he will return the country to an unspecified period of greatness.

“Argentina is going to reclaim the place in the world that it should never have lost,” Milei said at his victory rally Sunday. His followers have embraced the comparison, and often wear hats bearing the words “Make Argentina Great Again.”

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The son of a passenger transport businessman and a homemaker, the economist doesn’t like to talk much about his childhood and has said his young years were marked by a tense relationship with his father.

A younger Milei played in a Rolling Stones tribute band and served as a goalkeeper in the youth divisions of the Chacarita soccer club. But he decided to put aside soccer during the hyperinflation period of the late 1980s to study economics.

These days, the only family member with whom he has a close relationship is his sister, Karina Milei, who ran his campaign. He calls her “the boss,” and has repeatedly characterized her as the architect of his rise to power.

During his repeated television appearances, Milei didn’t just talk about economics and politics. He also delved into his personal life and once presented himself as an expert in tantric sex, openly discussing how he had repeatedly participated in group sex and providing tips.

For much of his adult life, Milei did not have a serious romantic partner and he isn’t known to have friends. After saying for months that he didn’t have time to date, he started a relationship in July with actress and artist Fátima Flórez. She is known for her imitations of Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was president 2007-2015.

Milei had a deep connection with his English Mastiff, Conan, who passed away. He now has at least four others reportedly cloned using Conan’s DNA, all of which are named after economists.

Despite the “wig” nickname, his hair is real.

First appeared on abcnews.go.com

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