Spanish-speaking former presidents and prominent intellectuals have stated their positions on Sunday's run-off in Argentina: Mario Vargas Llosa, Mariano Rajoy and Iván Duque have backed libertarian outsider Javier Milei, while José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Michelle Bachelet and Rigoberta Menchú have raised the flag for ruling coalition candidate Sergio Massa.
Vargas Llosa, the famed Peruvian writer and Nobel Prize winner, joined former Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy and eight former Latin American leaders in a statement that describes Massa, Argentina’s current economy minister, as "the continuity of a failed corporate economic model" that keeps the country in the grip of stagnation.
Earlier this week, just days out from Sunday’s presidential run-off, Argentina’s national statistics bureau confirmed that inflation stood at 142.7 percent year-on-year – one of the highest rates in the world. Poverty is estimated to affect 40 percent of the population, which is in the midst of strong polarisation and uncertainty about the country's economic future.
"Facing this threat is the option of Javier Milei, a new candidate in politics, with whom we certainly have many differences, but who believes in the ideas of freedom," wrote the right-wing signatories.
Milei, a 53-year-old economist, presents himself as an outsider who rails against the “political caste.” He proposes a sweeping dollarisation of the economy and to “dynamite” the Central Bank in order to eliminate Argentina's chronic inflation; Massa, a veteran and experienced politician known for flexibility, is now seeking to attract voters who are critical of the Peronism by promising to lead a "national unity government.”
The manifesto signed by right-wing leaders was released on Twitter by La Libertad Avanza, Milei's party, and is also signed by former president Mauricio Macri, as well as Felipe Calderón and Vicente Fox (Mexico), Iván Duque and Andrés Pastrana (Colombia), Sebastián Piñera (Chile) and Jorge Quiroga (Bolivia).
In the opposite corner, another manifesto of European and Latin American former presidents and intellectuals called on Friday for Argentines to vote for Massa and defend democracy.
Rodríguez Zapatero, former prime minister of Spain; Bachelet, a former president of Chile and recently UN high commissioner for human rights; and Nobel Peace Prize winners Menchú and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel joined other leaders in a call in "defence of democracy" against Milei.
The polls indicate a technical tie between the two candidates for the November 19 elections, with Milei leading most polls by a few points, within the margin of error.