Javier Milei has confirmed that Mendoza politician Luis Petri, the running-mate of unsuccessful opposition presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich, will head the Defence Ministry in his new government.
Seen as an expert in security issues, Petri, 46, is the latest figure from the opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition to be added to Milei’s Cabinet. Confirmation of his role comes just days after Bullrich was confirmed as the incoming security minister.
Petri’s appointment – which was confirmed by the president-elect’s office on social media – means that the La Libertad Avanza leader has now integrated both members of the Juntos por el Cambio opposition presidential ticket into his government.
Argentina’s president-elect was previously expected to offer the post to his own vice-presidential running-mate, Victoria Villarruel, a figure with close ties to the military.
Hailing from San Martín, Mendoza Province, Petri served two terms as a national deputy from 2013 to 2021 for the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR). Prior to that he was provincial deputy for eight years.
The UCR politician is seen as a hard-liner on security and previously worked with Bullrich on legislation that sought to block the early release from prison of those convicted of serious crimes. He has called for a renewed clampdown on narco-trafficking
Within Radical circles, he is associated with the wing closest to former president Mauricio Macri and Petri came out publicly for Milei ahead of the November 19 run-off.
Responding to the news, Petri vowed to “revalue the role of the Armed Forces,” which he described as the “pride of the country.”
"We will honour their essential purpose, which guarantees the sovereignty and independence of the Nation, its territorial integrity; which protects life, freedom and contributes to the development of the Homeland,” he added.
Born in San Martín on April 1, 1977, Petri earned his law degree from the Universidad Nacional del Litoral in 2000 and practised law for a while in his own private firm.
The 46-year-old served as a national deputy for Mendoza between 2013 and 2021. He entered the Chamber of Deputies in third position on a Unión Cívica Radical list headed by Julio Cobos. He was re-elected under the Cambiemos alliance.
During his eight years as a lawmaker, he served as a board member on commissions of criminal legislation, justice, domestic security and transport. Between 2017 and 2019, he held the post of second vice-president in the lower house.
His most high-profile legislative contributions include the rejection of the two bills proposing voluntary termination of pregnancy, which were debated in Congress in 2018 and 2020.
He also backed bills limiting early release for felons. In 2017, he spearheaded a reform of the Penal Code which made penalties harsher, including life imprisonment, which went from a minimum of 35 years to 50.
In 2018, he introduced a bill to ban foreign citizens from accessing public healthcare and education in Argentina. The text of the bill proposed “to establish a system for non-permanent foreigners in order to bear the costs of the service.”
One of the points in common between his candidacy in Mendoza and his vice-presidential ticket with Bullrich is security. Discussing Rosario and the ongoing conflict with drug-dealers and narco-traffickers, he said that “the thing is, in Argentina we need more [Nayib] Bukeles” and “less Zaffaronis” – references to populist El Salvador President Nayib Bukele and Argentina’s ex-Supreme Court justice Raúl Zaffaroni.
“We have to side with the victims and use all the power of the State to combat crime and essentially drug-dealing”, he added.
Petri has also voiced strong criticism of the penitentiary system, claiming that “prisoners eat better in jail than children at school” and “that has to be reversed.” He previously said his first measure in office would be to place telephone signal jammers in jails to stop criminal coordination in institutions.
In 2001, broadcaster and journalist Cristina Pérez confirmed that she was in a relationship with the Mendoza politician. The duo had met through work and exchanged messages, with the relationship eventually blossoming into a romance.
On Monday she celebrated her fiancée’s appointment, praising his commitment to public service.
“This time I am not speaking as a journalist,” Pérez wrote in a post on the X social network. “I want to congratulate my partner @luispetri on his appointment as defence minister in President Milei's government. I know that his deep political vocation, his tireless preparation and his honesty will guide him in public service.”
Rumours of a break-up earlier this year were swiftly denied by the pair. Back in May, they hosted a party in Mendoza to celebrate their engagement.
When she denied the rumours, Pérez revealed that she has an “L” [for Luis] tattooed on her wrist, while the politician showed the “C” [for Cristina] on his.
Petri has a son with a previous partner.