Argentina Just Elected an Eccentric Populist Who Seeks Counsel From His Cloned Dogs
A decisive majority of Argentinian voters opted for trying something new when they elected Javier Milei to be the country’s next president.
Amid soaring inflation and rising poverty, Milei, a right-wing populist who promised a radical shakeup of the government, defeated incumbent economy minister Sergio Massa in the run-off vote on Sunday with more than 55% of votes, the highest percentage a presidential candidate has received since Argentina’s return to democracy in 1983.
But more than any of his policy proposals or platform details, Milei primarily came to be known throughout the turbulent election season as an eccentric. A former rock musician who once jammed in a Rolling Stones tribute band, the wild-haired Milei rose to prominence as a prolific economist and TV and radio commentator. On the campaign trail, he wielded a chainsaw on stage and smashed a piñata on air to symbolize his plans. He has made bold remarks ranging from calling Pope Francis a “filthy leftist” to hailing American gangster Al Capone as a “hero.”
Still, perhaps nothing has raised more questions about the President-elect’s mental acuity and fitness to lead than the widely-reported (and ridiculed) matter of whom he turns to for advice: Conan, Murray, Milton, Robert and Lucas. They were the first people he thanked when he finished first in the country’s presidential primaries in August—except they’re not really people.
It all started when Milei adopted an English mastiff named Conan, a reference to the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian, in 2004. González, the Argentinian journalist and unofficial Milei biographer, wrote in the Buenos Aires Times that the pet became, in Milei’s words, his “true and greatest love” and that Milei came to see Conan as “literally his son.” Milei, who is unmarried and childless, has credited the 200-pound dog with being his closest friend and confidante and sticking by his side through difficult and lonely times.