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ARGENTINA | 15-04-2024 16:25

Javier Milei sees four dogs and says there are five – it should concern us

On a denial of reality, cloned dogs, mediums and Javier Milei's messianic project.

Has Andrés Oppenheimer, the CNN En Español journalist who conducted the interview, read the latest edition of Noticias? Or was it simply a coincidence? 

When, in their recent interview, President Javier Milei told the veteran journalist about his routine every morning at the Olivos presidential residence (waking up very early, getting on a golf cart, heading to the other end of the residence and playing with his dogs “Conan, Milton, Murray, Robert and Lucas” for an hour), the presenter made a curious remark. “I read you have to be with one of them at a time, because if you hang out with all four of them at once they fight?” 

Oppenheimer must not have heard that the President had given not four, but five names, when referring to his dogs. Had the CNN reporter read the latest edition, in which it was revealed that another one of Milei’s animals had died, he might have asked the question, cast doubt over the official version.

Many unanswered questions remain when it comes to Milei and his dogs. But the truth is – in this canine world where reality and fiction seem to merge – is that what the head of state said is a misrepresentation of reality. There are no five “sons” of Conan (actually, they are the original dog’s clones). One of them died of heart failure in late 2020 and there have been four ever since.

This is merely one more chapter in the long series of Milei’s misadventures. That is why the big substantive issue is another one entirely: the libertarian leader appears not to be lying when he claims there are five clones. He says it with full conviction, and even in clarification during the interview, he looked somewhat annoyed at having to clarify something that is so evident to him. 

The big question is how Milei’s psyche works. And the mystery around his dogs is a great way to find out exactly how.

There is a famous interview involving Milei and his pets. It is from early 2023. The libertarian is giving an interview to journalist Esteban Trebucq when the TV show’s producers display, without warning, a photo of the original Conan on a big screen next to the interview. 

From that moment on, Milei can’t concentrate. He is enraptured with the image of the animal onscreen. He looks at the photo and engrossed in his own world, begins mumbling… “There’s Conan, that’s Conan, Conan…” 

“How old is he?” Trebucq asks. The answer defies all logic: “Whoa, Conan is so old I’ve lost count.” 

In fact, at that time, the English mastiff wasn’t “so old.” The maths is quite simple. Conan has been dead since 2017 – six years prior to the interview.

A similar episode had taken place in 2018. Milei, who would not accept the animal’s death according to his therapist, had the canine cloned. After his purchase, a US firm supplied him with genetic copies of Conan. 

He took the puppies on television. During an interview with Pía Shaw, in which the four “sons” enjoyed their first and only appearance on the small screen, the presenter closed by asking after Conan. 

“He’s great, he’s old, but he has the health of a pup,” came the answer, even though by that point the dog had been dead for almost a year.

The list of facts casting doubt over the stability of the head of state’s mind does not end there: there was the creation of an account on social networks for the late mastiff (when it was already dead) and Milei would interact with the user as though the animal were still alive.

Most notably, there are the conversations Milei has managed to have with “The One” (the way in which he refers to God), thanking to the “channel of light” which Conan (it is always Conan) opened up, and the “mission” given to him, which was none other than to go into politics, with his destiny becoming President in 2023.

Some 10 witnesses attest to the account of events above. Cloning company Perpetuate confirmed that Conan was died. Claudia Oviedo, a former friend of Milei, said that the libertarian had entrusted her with the handling of the social network accounts identified with the dead animal. Economist Mariano Fernández, another former close friend of the libertarian, claimed that the now-President “told him that the dogs were bringing a message from God.” Two others, Gustavo and Melamed, the latter a medium, also confirmed their “work” relationship with Milei. These are just a few.

When talking about the mystery of the clones – both living and dead – it is not just talk about the genetic copies of an English mastiff. Nor should the love a person can have for an animal be questioned – for many, it can be identical to the love a parent has for a child.

The substantive matter lies elsewhere. What is a dead dog hiding? And what is it showing us? What is telling about the fact that somebody, not least a President, says that an animal exists when it does not? Is he lying or convinced that there is another reality?

Milei is a political revolution. He has broken golden political rules: nobody can go from being a civilian to president in two years; nobody can win an election without their own ground or militancy behind them; nobody can win by promising a phenomenal adjustment and austerity campaign; nobody can rule with a minority in Congress and without even a single allied governor… the list goes on. 

Four months into his term of office, even in a context of a rampant economic crisis, the President has enviable popularity ratings, for any leader in the region. Not just that: the libertarian has been in the gravitational centre of local politics. In the same way, until a short while ago, Argentina was divided into those supporting Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and those opposing her. Now Milei is the centre of that solar system.

Therefore, there are several elements that could provide evidence that the economist’s leadership of the political scene is something that is here to stay. But Milei has a big problem: it is he himself. Specifically, the problems he has dealing with reality.

Analysts and politicians have been debating this point. The former include those who say that, far from being a problem, Milei talking about his dogs is something that “humanises” him – it is scientifically proven that putting an animal close to a politician drives votes and their image up in the rankings. Among the latter – including the bulk of the government itself – there are those who claim that this is merely one more topic to deviate attention away from the economic crisis, a diagnosis even repeated by many of Milei’s staunchest critics, who complain when somebody goes deep into his “four-legged children” or the head of state’s messianic derangements.

Yet there are two elements that go against this reading. The first one is that, as held by political researcher Alejandro Frigerio, these facts are at the crux of the Milei phenomenon: the project is a political one, explicitly messianic and religious. One sphere cannot be separated from the other, they overlap from the time the libertarian apparently received from God – via his dead dog – the call to a “mission” to go into politics.

This character, the religious revolution of the movement, is exuded almost everywhere in Milei’s government: its discourse (“the forces of heaven” and “decent Argentines,” in the inauguration it was claimed that “a new era” was beginning, in parallel with King Salomon and the idea that symbolises the fight between “light” and “darkness”); in its way of declaring a total break from the status quo (as when Milei turned his on Congress in his inauguration speech, dismissing it as a “rat’s nest,” in his fierce fight against the whole political “caste”); in its own building of a mythological past (pre-democratic Argentina 100 years ago); through its followers and some officials (such as Santiago Caputo, flirting with the idea of “Milei emperor”); in the use of mystical facts that have consequences on reality (such as the intention to move Argentina’s Embassy in Israel because King David ‘spoke’ to the head of state in a dream). The elements of Milei’s Presidency: mediums, wizards, clones, dead dogs, talking ghosts, channels of light, politics, elections… in Milei’s head this is all the same, a single inseparable thing, just as a sea cannot exist without waves.

There is also another analysis to be taken into account. Normally, it is something that would take little time when someone claims to see five animals when looking at four. 

Ciro Korol, a writer from Rosario who suffered from schizophrenia, defined that struggle well in Belbo magazine. “When I was insane, I wanted to be president too, but the big difference is that I have received psychiatric and psychoanalytic treatment and was able to recognise that I was insane,” he wrote. “I believed I was the saviour of Argentina, and I also believed that God had chosen me and spoke to me. But the big difference with Milei is that no-one, besides myself, trusted my messianic destiny. With the libertarian it’s very different, because many people follow him, acclaim him and vote for him.”

Given all this, it is crucial to understand the labyrinth that is the President’s psyche. Even through Conan, which is perhaps the best key in understanding the libertarian. 

Ironically, the President’s interviewers know that the subject makes him uncomfortable beforehand. Oppenheimer did not follow up and did not ask him about it again, and none of the journalists who usually interview Milei ever mention the rarity of speaking in the present tense about a dog which has been dead for nearly seven years.

Through the dog, one can guess how difficult Milei’s life has been. The impossibility of accepting an animal’s death is inseparable from the terrible physical and psychological violence Milei suffered from his parents and schoolmates. One can guess the origins of his anarcho-capitalist ideology, someone who has never been able to connect with humans and can only (with dogs) spend a lifetime thinking under the logic of the market and support, following the laws of supply and demand, things like the supply of human organ and children’s market, one can arrive on the mystical path that started after the death of the animal and ended with him as President, and then ultimately, at this present. 

A head of state who hides, behind the mystery of his dogs, the labyrinth that is his head.

Juan Luis González

Juan Luis González

Periodista de política.

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