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Why Y Wladfa backed far-right candidate Javier Milei to be president of Argentina

26 Nov 2023 4 minute read
Javier Milei, Vox España, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons; Tea house in the Welsh settlement of Y Wladfa in Patagonia. (Photo: Brettocop CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Luke James

With its Welsh chapels, tea houses and schools, Gaiman has always stood out on the cultural map of Argentina.

Now the centre of the Welsh community in Patagonia stands out on the country’s election results map too, with the department of Gaiman a deeper shade of violet than those surrounding it.

That was the colour used on the campaign branding of Javier Milei, the economist turned far-right populist who claimed a shock victory over Peronist Sergio Massa in the final round of the presidential elections last Sunday.

The 66 per cent of the vote won by Milei in Gaiman was still 10% off the far-right candidate’s highest scores, which came in the Córdoba province.

But it was also 10 per cent higher than the national score achieved by Milei and was his third highest score across the 39 departments in the south of Argentina.

Welsh descent

It is difficult to know how many of the 4,968 Gaiman residents who cast their vote for Milei last Sunday were of Welsh descent.

But Dr Geraldine Lublin of Swansea University, author of Memoir and Identity in Welsh Patagonia: Voices from a settler community in Argentina, told Nation.Cymru: “Many Welsh descendants tend to be considered ‘middle class’ and so they tend to vote for whoever’s opposing the Peronist party.

“This was Juntos por el Cambio in the legislative elections and Milei in the presidential ones on Sunday.

“Most voters seemed to be voting against the other candidate rather than for their chosen one.”

The Chubut province, where Welsh settlers established Y Wladfa in 1865, has been governed by Peronists, who broadly believe in a third-way between capitalism and socialism, for the last two decades.

The late Mario Das Neves, an ally of defeated presidential candidate Sergio Massa, was governor during most of that period and visited Cardiff to reinforce the region’s historic ties with Wales.

But this time Chubut backed Milei in both the first round, when he was narrowly beaten by Massa, as well as the second round.

In the Futaleufú department, which includes Trevelin, Milei received 56% of the vote in the final run-off. In Rawson, which includes Trelew, he won 60%. And in Biedma, which includes Puerto Madryn, he won by 62%.

Inflation

Inflation of 140% played the key role in persuading voters in rural Chubut to take a chance on Milei rather than sticking with Massa, the current economy minister.

“This whole election has been about inflation and how to control inflation,” said Dr Lucy Taylor of Aberystwyth University.

“For people who are farmers, as we know in Wales, they’ve seen their prices fluctuating and they’re losing money hand over fist.

“They’ve seen their incomes dropping significantly and I think they, along with everyone else, are just desperate for some economic stability.”

Chain saw

A self-described “anarcho-capitalist”, Milei spent the election campaign waving around a chainsaw to demonstrate his commitment to cutting inflation.

He says he will achieve that by abolishing Argentina’s central bank, adopting the US dollar as the country’s currency, cutting government spending by 15% and halving the number of government departments.

The ministry for the environment is among those under threat from Milei, who has described climate change as a “socialist hoax.”

“Like all populist votes, it’s a rejection of the government as much as it is a grasp to the last hope,” added Dr Taylor.

“This guy comes along with some ideas, he waves a chainsaw in the air and says I’m going to slash inflation. You have that or more of the same.

“It’s not necessarily a positive vote for Milei but it’s kind of ‘what the hell do we do now.’”


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Sarah Good
Sarah Good
3 months ago

How disappointing. No matter who you are voting against, voting FOR a far right party is voting for punishment of the marginalised and different.
i know nothing of Argentine politics but there has yet to be a far right leader who has NOT scapegoated.
Shame

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
3 months ago

Anarcho-capitalism is pretty much an oxymoron, and really it’s the kind of right libertarianism we are seeing failing to spectacularly in our own country, and all those countries that have followed the UK’s lead in introducing measures of neoliberalism. I hope, for the Argentinian’s sake that he doesn’t implement his totally off-the-wall whacko ideas as they’ll find themselves in an even worse predicament than they already are. The only people who will benefit will be the elite 1%. There will be considerable push-back by parliament, as Milei doesn’t enjoy a majority there, and there is also organised labour which won’t… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
3 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Your analysis seems right although I am suspicious of the media tendency to label as “far right” anything that is not evidently left of centre or indeed not conforming with the tired worn out spectrum of our clapped out democracy. Daily Mail don’t like him cos he started barking about the Malvinas although some of his “market forces” quips are suspect too. Argentina has been a failed state since the arrival of Peron evidence that a certain type of marriage between nationalism and socialism is like mixing oil and water.

Susana
Susana
3 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

You’re right

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
3 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Your suspicions aren’t based on reality, especially the media in the UK which is predominantly right-wing and moving further to the right. During Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of labour he was labelled (by nearly all of the media) as being a far-left extremist but his policies were no different from European social democrats.

hdavies15
hdavies15
3 months ago
Reply to  Richard Davies

Come off it Richard. “Far right” is the default description of media that can’t be asked to think a touch more deeply about the subject of their reporting. Mail’s freakish response to this guy is down to his stance on Malvinas.

I don’t dispute that the treatment of Corbyn was any different but he’s no longer driving any challenge to the Establishment and its globalist homogenised values. The media tar people who challenge their suspect shallow norms as “far this” and “far that” when in reality there are very few “far anything” left in the UK and Wales in particular.

Arthur Owen
Arthur Owen
3 months ago

The Welsh community in the US has always been predominantly Republican.Draw your own conclusions.

Riki
Riki
3 months ago
Reply to  Arthur Owen

That’s good to hear! The Demoncrats were the Pro Slavery party, let’s remember that!

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
3 months ago
Reply to  Riki

Oh what a surprise! A man who thinks you are not a “real” nationality unless you can trace your family back to the beginning of time in the country in which you live, is a supporter of the most bigoted iteration of a right wing government that country has ever had. And yet none of the Republican or Democrat party are “real Americans” by your usual definition of “real” since none of their family lines in that country go back more than 250 years.

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
3 months ago
Reply to  Arthur Owen

Source?

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
3 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Good

Tomato 🍅

CapM
CapM
3 months ago
Reply to  Arthur Owen

What’s the basis for that assertion? In any case as a little bit of effort shows both Republican and Democrat parties have not always had the same profile as they have today. From Wiki’s Histories of the parties. Democrat Before the American Civil War, the party generally supported slavery or insisted it be left to the states. After the war until the 1940s, the party opposed civil rights reforms in order to retain the support of Southern white voters.  Republican In 1854, the Republican Party emerged to combat the expansion of slavery into American territories….. The early Republican Party consisted of… Read more »

Riki
Riki
3 months ago

The man is a case book Nutcase, he even wants another falklands. I’d like to see him try! I’m no pro Empire but the people there already had a vote to remain British. That’s the end of the story.

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
3 months ago
Reply to  Riki

Wow ideologically you are all over the shop. Welsh (“real British”) separatist one minute then jingoistic Union Jack waving One Nation imperialist the next.
This new president is Argentina’s Bolsonaro and like all far right governments (including the UK) will viciously attack the vulnerable and visible as scapegoats.
But Las Malvinas should never have been British. The people there should be offered to stay under Argentine rule, or returned to the UK or move to a 3rd destination of their choice (under that nation’s laws and customs.

Linda ferch Arwyn
Linda ferch Arwyn
3 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Good

They voted 97% to remain as a British Territory !?

Simon Weston will confirm that for you.

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
3 months ago

Illegal occupiers vote to remain illegal occupiers. That’s hardly surprising and hardly democracy. I don’t need Simon Weston to confirm this for me. But I am curious as to why you mention him specifically, since he’s not exactly a leading expert on the political administration of that colony. Is it an attempt to paint me as cruel because he got horribly burned during the avoidable, pointless war of ownership of those islands? Do you also back Russia’s claims for legitimate ownership of Donbas? They had a “vote” too. British law deemed their own occupation of Las Malvinas legal. The United… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Sarah Good
Linda ferch Arwyn
Linda ferch Arwyn
3 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Good

Erm…the Argentines claim the Falklands as réparation from Spain. Who also conquered it along with the French.

My mistake though – they voted 99.8% to remain.

Albeit in a referendum that was clearly rigged in the eyes of Welsh Nationalists.

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
3 months ago

Oh I know what Wikipedia says Linda. Irrelevant though. 100% referendum doesn’t matter when the only ones voting are illegal occupiers. I’m sure if Israel held a referendum of illegal settlers the West Bank, there would be 100% support for turning the West Bank over to Israeli rule. Referendums are almost always invoked dishonestly to enable ideologues to try and legitimise their extreme agendas. Also I’m not a Welsh Nationalist. Nor a patriot. I am simply a woman born into a place and culture for which I have a natural affinity, that I would like to be protected from the… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Sarah Good
Linda ferch Arwyn
Linda ferch Arwyn
2 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Good
  1. They have never been an inhabited Argentinian island.
  2. They were a settled British Island long before Argentina as a country existed.
  3. It’s inhabitants who have a long generational history, identify as British.
Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
2 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Good

As Linda has already said there was never an Indigenous population on The Falkland Islands,
In a referendum there was a 92% turnout of which 99•8% of the electorate voted to remain an overseas territory.You can’t even get 50% to vote in Senedd elections.
Did Argentina consult The Native population about a land grab?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

Argentinians try not to think of the past…too many Germans of dubious background for a start and they teach the children of Argentina a historical nonsense…

In Argentina if you are not a politician you are dirt poor and voiceless…

Beware of closed lists they are the first step down this road as Mark Drakeford well knows…

Gwyn Hopkins
Gwyn Hopkins
3 months ago

 
 
Although the Falklands are 8,000 miles from the UK, its government commandeered them and planted British people there almost 2 centuries ago. As such, it is hardly surprising that their descendants voted unanimously to remain British in the 2013 referendum. The same plantation policy created Gibraltar and Northern Ireland. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that the people of these enclaves of Spain and Ireland also favour remaining British. One could argue that referendums in these territories were, therefore, rigged from the outset. 

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

My contacts in Argentina tell me that it is not being reported honestly in our press…

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