La Libertad Avanza presidential candidate Javier Milei promised supporters that Argentina will cease to be "fertile ground for corrupt politicians” on Wednesday night as he staged his closing campaign rally ahead of this Sunday’s election.
In a fiery speech, the libertarian lawmaker declared that the ballot is the "most important in the last 100 years" of the country’s history and pleaded with voters to turn the page on decades of Peronist decay.
"On Sunday we have the opportunity to have a homeland again, for our soil to stop being fertile land for corrupt politicians and for it to be a land of opportunities for all those who want to progress based on their efforts," the libertarian lawmaker declared to an adoring crowd at the Movistar Arena.
Four days before the presidential elections, the libertarian lawmaker drew more than 10,000 supporters to Villa Crespo and Chacarita for a raucous rally. Supporters flocked to the venue in large numbers, many carrying giant dollar notes with Milei's face or masks with his image on them.
Dressed in a suit and tie, Milei walked through a sea of supporters to the stage and stoked up the crowd before delivering his greatest hits to the crowd. Hailing his movement’s “impressive” progress over the last two years, Milei slammed Argentina’s "caste of thieving politicians," complicit media and "corrupt businessmen."
"This caste is not only made up of thieving politicians, but also of the businessmen and journalists who are bribed. The only ones who are going to fall off the cliff are you, the thieves of the political caste," said the La Libertad Avanza leader.
"This model will only lead us to become the largest slum in the world. This is the historic moment to create a turning point," he declared.
Milei, 52, predicted a first round victory on Sunday, for which he needs 45 percent of the vote, or 40 per cent with a 10-point lead over the next closest candidate.
The libertarian was the most voted candidate in the PASO primaries on August 13 and polls, which have mostly been unreliable, nevertheless show him as the favourite in Sunday’s general election.
The libertarian leader appealed to voters one more time to take him to the Casa Rosada.
"Let's go to the polls, let's go to vote, let's take your children, parents and friends with hope in our hearts… because Argentina has a future only if it is liberal,” he roared to the crowd.
Milei won standing ovations when he defended private property and "social cooperation, where it is only possible to be successful by serving others with better quality goods at a better price."
His project, among others, envisages dollarising Argentina’s economy and drastically reducing public spending. Earlier on Wednesday, he said in a TV interview that he would privatise the rail network and open it up to the market, one in a number of planned sell-offs and reforms.
Among the supporters attending Wednesday night’s rally was 57-year-old Moisés Achee, who until now had broadly identified with the ruling Peronist coalition.
"For many, many years I voted with feeling ... it was a captive vote. I didn't think. And the truth is that I turned a blind eye to many aspects,” he said.
“Javier Milei has my vote, my admiration," he explained. "He is a concrete, simple person. He is not part of a herd. He doesn't belong to any herd."
Sonia Acosta, a 60-year-old public employee, said she wanted to show her support. "What Javier convinced me the most with this is the Central Bank, where the guys launder money, money for their little pockets.”
"Why am I not afraid of dollarisation? Because our peso is no longer useful," she said, talking as she danced to a drumbeat dressed in an Argentine flag. “We have to change this currency. Come on! The dollar!”
Among the crowd, several Venezuelan flags were being waved alongside the yellow flags of Milei's party, La Libertad Avanza, bearing the candidate’s trademark slogan: "Viva la libertad, carajo!"
"Milei represents that group of people who want to embrace the ideas of freedom, precisely at a historic moment where the left has taken such a position in Latin America and has done so much damage," said Luis Sambrano, a 36-year-old Venezuelan who lives in Buenos Aires.
Luis, who emigrated to Argentina seven years ago, wanted to support Milei despite not being able to vote for him. The Venezuelan is able to vote in the local Buenos Aires City elections, but not the presidential ballot.
Last week, Milei stirred the markets by declaring that the peso "cannot be worth excrement" and advising savers to switch to the dollar, earning him a criminal complaint from President Alberto Fernández and a reaction from private banks calling for "democratic responsibility" amid fears of a run on the banks.
Underlining the capitalist approach of the libertarian party, La Libertad Avanza pennants were on sale to supporters for 1,000 pesos; T-shirts ranged from 4,500 to 6,000 pesos; Stuffed Milei teddies were available for 3,000 pesos.
Street food was also present, as it is at most political rallies. Two friends, who said they were from Tucumán, were selling a "dólar blue" milanesa sandwich for 900 pesos.
Economist Alberto Benegas Lynch, a leader of liberalism in Argentina, opened the event by referring to the candidate's project to "dynamite" the Central Bank.
"What Javier Milei is doing is an intellectual orgasm for me,” declared the economist, who the presidential candidate describes as a “hero.”
Milei was joined onstage by his closest allies, who he thanked individually in his speech to the crowd. They included vice-presidential candidate Victoria Villarruel, Buenos Aires City mayoral hopeful Ramiro Marra, candidate for Buenos Aires Province governor Carolina Píparo, his adviser and sister Karina Milei; singer turned politician El Dipy; potential foreign minister nominee Diana Mondino and a host of other candidates for deputies and senators.