“Thank you, thank you.” It’s the first time that Karina Milei has climbed onto a stage to speak and hardly a routine moment – her brother has just been elected President of all Argentines.
The public, both inside and outside the Hotel Libertador, awaits the first words of the economist as president-elect. But – with a wink from the protagonist – she is the first to start the ball rolling
“Jefe, jefe, ole ole ole, jefe, jefe,” chants the multitude.
“Thank you, thank you. Good night. I leave you with the president-elect, Javier Milei,” she says as she lets her elder brother take to the podium. During all the rest of the day she will always be close by his side.
Karina Milei, 51, won’t need any official post in the next government because any position would be beneath her. The principal campaign strategist for the president-elect’s campaign has spent her lifetime being the most important person for her brother.
For most of those years she was the only one at his side, without counting the now ghostly presence of his late dog Conan.
To understand the role of Karina in its true dimensions, you first have to understand the complex dynamics of La Libertad Avanza (LLA).
The grouping has a profoundly chaotic structure without a pecking order or any kind of hierarchy, as is common in other parties. It zigzags and your best friend tomorrow can be a traitor and vice-versa.
It also suffers from another problem – it grew too fast. To give an example, PRO competed and had lost an election before their 2007 victory made a Buenos Aires City mayor out of Mauricio Macri, who served two terms before making the jump to national level.
This case is very different. The growth of LLA was brutal, campaigning from the first months of its life to take Milei to the Presidency in only two years, without any internal order nor any mechanism of debate or conflict resolution nor the least intention of designing any.
The only thing clear to all involved was that Javier and Karina were in charge, an ultra-verticalist logic which adds another problem – both can change their mind on an issue several times in a week. In a party which apes the forms and emotional upheavals of the leader and his sister, chaos was inevitable.
Karina was the one plugging the gaps. Although her brother is the visible face – her voice was almost unknown – and although all her life she has steered even clearer of politics than Javier, she is “El Jefe” (“the boss,” as he calls her) and she calls the shots in La Libertad Avanza. She has a total monopoly of some issues, topics which in any other party tend to be divided up among several people. But she does not want to delegate, nor does she know how to.
The 51-year-old is also handling the money. She’s the treasurer, the one who controls the cash which goes in and out, the one who makes the decisions about fundraising and who takes charge of collecting. Those who deal with her say that she is much quicker in such matters than her brother.
“Moses,” as the libertarian leader refers to her, is the strategist. For Javier the alternatives to follow, the names to support or expel, the agenda, the interviews, the rallies, the aesthetics and the places to visit… all come to him via his sister.
Fear and blessing
“Talk that over with Kari,” is the phrase most often heard within the front, a logic which drives more than one person crazy and in the long run ends up blocking the resolution of any issue. Some are terrified of her. It suffices to see the face of Fátima Florez, Milei’s brand-new girlfriend, when in the last Sunday speech she sought to regain a certain protagonism on the stage but was cut short by a mere glance from Karina.
All those within the structure – or who wish to belong to it – know that to do anything, they first need Karina’s blessing. She is the way of reaching Milei, she is the one who convinces him of what steps to take. She’s the only person the president-elect really trusts. The dance of figures around the sister is explained by this reality.
“If they want to be here, they know what telephone to call,” Karina likes to repeat.
Some in the party maintain that there is something manipulative about the relationship between Karina and Javier. That when she does not get what she wants, she kicks, argues, screams and ends up in terrible fights with her brother, until she stops talking and leaves. Several days without communication can then follow until the deputy ends up yielding to “the boss.”
What scares Milei is that deepest solitude in those spells in which his sister stops talking to him – the explanation of the power Karina has over him. Such is the relationship between the next president and the most important person in La Libertad Avanza.