Thevictory of Javier Milei in Argentina on December 10 of 2023, was part of a regional political trend. Since 2018 there have been 19 general elections in Latin America: in all but one of them the ruling party lost the next presidential election, or did not even present a candidate (we refer here to competitive elections, so we do not include those that took place in Nicaragua and Venezuela). Thus, there is a widespread political turn against incumbents in the region, regardless of their political orientation.
Some sources of discontent with incumbents may be local, but such a clear regional pattern suggests that international causes may also be at work. And it is not hard to find potential causes of discontent with incumbents on the international stage. First, the end in 2013 of the biggest Boom in commodity prices since the 1950s. Second, the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the IMF, while the world economy contracted 3% on average in 2020, Latin America’s economy contracted by 7%. The region also had the highest excess mortality rate and four of the countries with the highest absolute number of deaths due to Covid in the world. The third international source of discontent with incumbents in Latin America is the war in Ukraine. It affected the region in terms of its effects over the international prices of food and fuel, as well as over the price (and availability) of fertilizers (which might reduce the future supply of home-grown crops). It also affects the region through its effects over growth rates among its main trading partners (i.e., China and the United States), and the world economy at large.
To those global sources of discontent with incumbents we could add two regional ones. First, the so called “Lava Jato” case: that is, the biggest corruption scandal in regional history which affected twelve countries, most of them in Latin America and the Caribbean. Second, a sharp increase in homicide rates in most countries, due to changes in the patterns of international drug trafficking (i.e., the emergence of new markets in Asia for traditional drugs, like cocaine, contributed to create new trade routes through countries like Ecuador, and the growth of the market for relatively new synthetic drugs). Thus, the election of Javier Milei on December 10 of 2023 (defeating the incumbent candidate, Sergio Massa), is part of a wider regional trend.
And yet, his is a distinctive case because, as he proudly claims, he is the first ever self-proclaimed “liberal-libertarian” to be elected president of a country. Thus, for instance, he already declared that his government with decline to be part of the BRICS alliance, despite having being already accepted as a member. Given his political affiliation, it is understandable that, during his campaign, Milei made the following claim concerning his international positioning: “One of the things I said is that my international alignment is with the West and the values of the West, and it is clearly understood what the West is. When we say West, for example, Japan enters into this logic of the West, and I said that my two great allies are the United States and Israel (…).”
But, as I’ll try to prove in a forthcoming book, Milei’s has adopted political views and forged alliances with politicians (like Donald Trump in the US, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil or Javier Abascal in Spain), that place him on the radical right of the political spectrum. Thus, he has taken political positions that contradict just about anything you might expect from an alleged liberal-libertarian whose campaign slogan was “¡Long live freedom, damn it!”. Here I will try to show what those contradictory claims could imply for his foreign policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Milei, for instance, considers as the fundamental rights of any human being the “right to life, liberty and private property.” But the infringement of the right to private property appears not to matter to him when committed by one of his allies. For example, Resolution 2334 of the United Nations Security Council (where the United States, France or the United Kingdom could veto resolutions critical of Israeli policies) states: “Condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions, (…).”
Precisely because the settlements for Jewish settlers who are citizens of Israel are built on land confiscated from its legitimate Palestinian owners in territories that Israel occupies illegally, United Nations Security Council Resolution 445 states:
“Determines that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity (…).”
Milei also states that he believes in the full equality of a country’s citizens before the law, ignoring the fact that in Israel, laws discriminate systematically in favor of one ethnic group among its citizens. One example is the Nation-State law, by which: “The actualization of the right of national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people. (…). The state views Jewish settlement as a national value and will labor to encourage and promote its establishment and development.” This is even though 20% of Israeli citizens are not Jews, and the majority of Jews in the world are not citizens of Israel. For reasons such as these, Amnesty International,Human Rights Watch and the Israeli group B’Tselem accuse Israel of having created an apartheid regime.
It can also be assumed that among the Western values Milei claims are Western contributions to the contemporary international system, such as international law in general and international humanitarian law in particular. Nonetheless, Israel infringes the same principles of international law that Russia infringes in Ukraine. Ask yourself, for example, what principle of international law Russia infringed when it occupied and annexed Ukrainian territory. In the words of the G7 (an entity consisting of the world’s main capitalist democracies): “We reiterate our call for all countries to unequivocally condemn Russia’s war of aggression and its attempt to acquire territory by force.” Although it derives from the United Nations Charter, the first express formulation of this appears in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 in the following form: “Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war (…).” But this is a resolution dating from 1967, referring to the Seven Days War and invoking that principle to demand the “Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict; (…)”: more than half a century after the adoption of the resolution, Israel still has not complied, as it did not withdraw from Palestinian and Syrian territories that it occupied then, and moreover has annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 and the Syrian Golan in 1981.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin in 2023, on the following grounds:
“Mr Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, (…), is allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”
What principle of international law does that behavior violate? The IV Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, specifically Article 49 (on “Deportations, Transfers, Evacuations”), which states: “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”
So Israel is also accused under international law of infringing the IV Geneva Convention. For example, the reason why United Nations Security Council Resolution 446 states that the settlements are illegal is that “the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, (…), is applicable to the Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, (…).” And it therefore “Calls once more upon Israel, as the occupying Power, (…), not to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the occupied Arab territories; (…).”
What article of the IV Geneva Convention does this behavior of the Israeli State infringe? The same article that the Russian government’s behavior infringed, Article 49. After the passage cited above, that article establishes that: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
We will conclude by mentioning that, although Javier Milei condemned Hamas’ crimes committed on October 7 of 2023 in Israel, neither him nor any member of his government has had any criticism so far of Israeli crimes committed in Gaza and other Palestinian occupied territories before or afterwards. Thus, providing further proof that his actual commitment to liberal or libertarian values on this issue is somewhere between selective and non-existent.