It never looked like it would last and so it has proved – the all-too-brief alliance between veteran union boss Luis Barrionuevo and libertarian presidential candidate Javier Milei is over, just five weeks after it officially began.
Barrionuevo, the leader of Unión de Trabajadores del Turismo, Hoteles y Gastronómicos (Uthgra), said Thursday that he was pulling his support for the La Libertad Avanza presidential candidate. The cause? Milei’s controversial agreement with former president Mauricio Macri and unsuccessful opposition presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich, who announced the previous day she would back the libertarian in the November 19 run-off.
The accord, reached on Tuesday at a meeting between Macri, Milei and Bullrich that was brokered by the former president, has sparked anger within the ranks of the opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition and prompted soul-searching within the libertarian’s own party, who feel he is betraying his campaign promise to eject Argentina’s “caste” from power.
For Barrionuevo, the deal is an “outrage” that prompted “disenchantment” among his ranks.
“I feel the need to raise my voice and communicate that I can’t and won’t support this surprising alliance between Milei’s party, Mauricio Macri and Patricia Bullrich,” the veteran labour leader said Thursday.
“The question about the caste has inundated this campaign, and I am forced to question: at the end of the day, who turned out to be the real caste? It’s obvious that our youthful illusion, thirsty for authenticity and change, has been betrayed when there are pacts with characters that embody what was promised to be fought,” he added, arguing that dignity is “not sold or traded.”
“Patricia Bullrich not only soils the essence of the initial proposal, but she twists and frontally contradicts the pillars which drove me to back Milei. I will not share a political effort with someone who incarnates the punishment of the worker, as she has proven during repeated terms of office,” he said.
“For these reasons, and despite everything which promised to be a new future for Argentina, I take the firm decision to break away from this new alliance,” declared the union boss.
Barrionuevo, 81, and Milei, 53, forged an unexpected agreement back in late September, with the union boss subsequently deploying his manpower at campaign rallies, events and on party business. The deal was in part facilitated by Fatima Florez, Milei’s partner.
However, tensions between the two groups began almost as soon as the election was over. In the wake of the results, Barrionuevo was blamed for his workers’ failure to effectively audit ballots and criticised for the lack of territorial support.
Sources within La Libertad Avanza told Perfil on Thursday that adding Barrionuevo to the team had been a mistake.
“We speak out against the caste and add Barrionuevo. We didn’t know how to explain it and he didn’t deliver either,” the libertarian source suggested.
Responding to the news, Milei took straight to social media. Declaring his run-off opponent to be the “king of the caste,” the libertarian leader sought to shift the conversation.
"Massa is the most complete representation of this impoverishing model. Massa is the establishment's dream candidate. Of the power players. Of the businessmen who are in the pay of the bosses. Of the unionists in the trade unions. Of the enveloped media. Massa is the King of the Caste", Milei posted on the social network X, formerly known as Twitter.
"The choice ahead of us is simple: do we continue with this model at the service of the Caste or do we change to re-embrace the ideas of freedom?" the presidential candidate asked followers.
The dumping caps off a whirlwind week for Milei, who has been at the forefront of Argentina’s shifting political scene in the wake of the election.