Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Argentina’s Milei Starts Another US Tour, Plans to Meet Elon Musk

'So hot rn...'

(Headline USA) President Javier Milei of Argentina kicked off a visit Wednesday to the United States, where he’ll meet with tech billionaire Elon Musk to discuss possible collaborations between one of the world’s leading lithium exporters and one of its leading producers of electric vehicles.

Such a collaboration could once again send Tesla stock soaring after the stock, which peaked around $372 per share in November 2021, hit a slump that has sent it down to approximately $172, with many financial forecasters predicting it will go lower.

The populist president started his four-day trip in Miami, which hosts one of the largest Argentine population in the US, and home to soccer superstar Lionel Messi.

In an event closed to the press, a Miami chapter of the Hasidic group Chabad–Lubavitch honored the Argentinian president along with Karina Milei, his sister and presidential adviser, at a local synagogue for their “tireless efforts for Israel.”

On Friday, Milei was due to meet with Musk in Texas, the president’s spokesperson said, where he will also tour a factory for Tesla, Musk’s electric car company.

Milei’s third trip to the U.S. in merely four months as president comes as he reshapes Argentine foreign policy in line with Washington.

Standing beside Gen. Laura Richardson, head of the U.S. Southern Command, at the southernmost tip of South America last week, Milei vowed to boost the nations’ “strategic alliance.”

He sees U.S. support as vital to the economic overhaul on which he has staked his presidency.

“We took advantage to present a new foreign doctrine for Argentina,” Milei tweeted Wednesday of his meeting with Richardson.

In the same post, apparently directed at Twitter CEO Musk—a self-declared free speech absolutist—Milei said he promoted “true freedom of expression” and slammed journalists critical of his administration as trying to “stop us from speaking.”

“We are not going to remain silent in the face of slander, insult or defamation,” he wrote.

Musk recently became embroiled in a standoff with a corrupt Brazilian judge who had demanded that Twitter take down posts critical of the current leftist government or expressing support for embattled ex-president Jair Bolsonaro—whose tenure overlapped with, and closely paralleled, that of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Milei’s barnstorm campaign shocked many in South America and elsewhere after the country spent the past four years under the leadership of the socialist Justicialist Party, which was founded by former President Juan Perón and his wife, Eva, in 1946.

In recent decades, it has been a dominant force in Argentinian politics, having held power for all but three terms since 1989, including Milei’s ascension with the Libertarian Party.

Despite Milei’s clear mandate for reform, however, his plan to slash spending has encountered resistance in a nation where annual inflation tops 276%. On Wednesday, police forcibly dispersed anti-government protestors blocking a main Buenos Aires artery.

The United States, the biggest investor in Argentina, also has the most influence over the International Monetary Fund, to which Argentina owes $42 billion. The IMF has endorsed Milei’s shock therapy for Argentina, agreeing to disburse $4.7 billion from a bailout package the country took out six years ago.

The State Department’s investment climate statement last year noted “capital controls, trade restrictions, and price controls” hampered investors in Argentina. Milei has vowed to roll back interventionist policies with market-oriented changes favored by business executives, like Musk, one of the world’s richest men.

Milei and Musk—who share a brash personality-driven style and distaste for government overreach—have expressed mutual admiration. Ahead of his inauguration last December, Milei praised Musk as an “icon of freedom.” Musk gushed over Milei’s speech lambasting socialism at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, commenting “So hot” with a meme of a couple having sex while watching Milei speak.

That’s in sharp contrast to Musk’s clash with Brazilian authorities, who threatened to regulate social-media sites and accused Musk of obstruction this week.

With its vast mineral reserves, Argentina has much to offer Musk, a dominant player in the auto industry who has referred to lithium—indispensable for electric car batteries — as “the new oil.”

Milei’s free-market policies have raised hopes in the U.S. that the metal and other badly needed raw materials like lithium can be extracted closer to home, breaking China’s dominance of the battery supply chain. The Biden administration said it was exploring investment opportunities in Argentine lithium earlier this year.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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