With less than two months to go before a key general election, Argentina’s presidential frontrunner is at odds with leading figures in neighbouring Uruguay.
Libertarian lawmaker Javier Milei fired back at former Uruguayan presidents Julio María Sanguinetti and José ‘Pepe’ Mujica on Tuesday after the duo criticised the La Libertad Avanza presidential candidate.
Although Sanguinetti and Mujica are of different political persuasions and will support different candidates in Argentina’s upcoming general election, both are in agreement over one thing: that Milei is "unpredictable."
Asked in an interview about the prospect of Milei winning the election and assuming the Presidency, Mujica responded by laughing and issuing a single word: “Help!”
The left-wing leader went on to qualify his comment by explaining that his objection wasn’t just to do with Milei’s ideological persuasion, but the candidate’s character.
"Not because he is right-wing. I think he's a madman – now it's a nest of madmen," he told local press in Uruguay.
In a separate interview with Canal 10, Sanguinetti also offered an opinion on Argentina’s political scene.
The country "is once again at a crossroads, it is once again in a very difficult moment," said the two-time former president. "On one side is the failure of the Kirchnerite project, on the other is Milei's adventure.”
"I think Milei is unpredictable. Someone who goes so far as to say that he is going to break off relations with China and Brazil… to tell the truth, not even a drunk would say such things. These are the things that are disconcerting about Milei," the former president went on to say.
Sanguinetti, who hails from the centre-right Partido Colorado, argued that Milei’s ideas could be separated into “good, regular and bad," but the presidential hopeful’s unpredictability generated instability.
The 87-year-old said that he would support the candidacy of opposition Juntos por el Cambio presidential hopeful Patricia Bullrich in the October election.
"In the middle of this, there is the PRO and the Radicals, who have been the democratic opposition until now", he said, adding: "I believe that beyond personal leaders, this is the option for a possible change."
Milei fires back
Mujica’s remarks prompted pushback from Milei, who dismissed the comments as another attempt to stain his character.
"Pepe Mujica is part of the São Paulo Forum. He is a partner of Kirchnerism, so I am not surprised,” the libertarian told Radio Mitre.
"Besides, I'm an international sword for the ideas of freedom. I don't just fight socialists of different stripes in Argentina, I fight them worldwide, and I am known worldwide for fighting what we call the cultural battle," he claimed.
"I am not surprised that someone from the São Paulo Forum, that is, our enemies, would say such an outrageous thing. It would be good if he would try to discuss ideas with me and it would be good if – being a big man, having seen so many things – he would explain why he adheres to an ideology that has always been a failure in economic, social and cultural terms,” said Milei, referencing Mujica’s historic support for communism and socialism.
Concern over the libertarian lawmaker’s surge in popularity has also reached Colombia, with President Gustavo Petro comparing Milei’s rhetoric to that of Nazi Germany dictator Adolf Hitler.
The row began after a clip of the presidential hopeful speaking in a radio interview circulating on social media. In it, the La Libertad Avanza hopeful described socialists as “human excrement.”
"The decadence of Argentina begins with this embrace of socialist ideas, that is to say, the real Argentine disease is called socialism. As long as a country embraces these ideas, the only thing that will happen is that it will become poorer and poorer," he said.
Milei concluded by saying that socialists "are rubbish, they are human excrement. They are bad people, that's the reality."
Commenting on the clip on X, formerly known as Twitter, Petro retweeted the comments and added a simple phrase: “This is what Hitler said.”