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Argentina's Milei meets German officials in controversial lap around Europe

24/6/2024 6:03
        Argentina's self-described anarcho-capitalist President Javier Milei met with German officials on Sunday in Berlin, part of his ongoing lap of Europe which has been greeted with both celebration and outrage.
        
        In a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday, the two leaders discussed Argentina's radical economic shifts and "the importance of having critical minerals" - likely Argentina's vast stores of lithium used in the global energy transition - wrote Manuel Adroni, a spokesperson for Milei, in a statement on Sunday.
        
        "The meeting between President Milei and Chancellor Scholz and their teams showed two leaders with a convergent vision, with the same principles and values in international politics and focused on solving key geopolitical challenges for the West," Adroni wrote.
        
        The German government said in a short statement Sunday the leaders spoke about the repercussions Milei's drastic economic cuts could have on Argentines and said Scholz reminded Milei of the importance of maintaining "social cohesion" while the leader attempts to control Argentina's sharp inflation.
        
        Also on the agenda was their sustained support for Ukraine and Israel, a trade agreement between the European Union and the countries of the Latin American Mercosur trade bloc, and concerns about democracy in the upcoming Venezuelan elections, according to Argentina's government.
        
        Center-left leader Scholz's politics and style contrast sharply with those of the Argentine president.
        
        Milei, a right-wing figure known for his unfiltered way of speaking, was elected last year on the promise to fix Argentina’s troubled economy and to "make Argentina great again."
        
        His austerity measures have fueled waves of mass protests in the South American nation, with protesters saying cuts have put the poor even more at risk and have endangered public universities. Milei has also drawn the ire of human rights activists after he called abortion "murder" and lambasted the country’s feminist movement as a "cult of a gender ideology."
        
        Scholz’s spokesperson, Steffen Hebestreit, said Friday it would be a "very short working visit, expressly at the wish of the Argentine president" and that there had been a "clear refusal" by Milei to hold a news conference. A greeting with military honors and a joint news conference that the German government originally announced were later canceled.
        
        The meeting came after Milei accepted an award from the neoliberal Augusto von Hayek Foundation in the German port city of Hamburg on Saturday for "freeing the population from shackles" and restoring "hope." In a speech as he accepted the award, Milei declared he was defeating the "socialists" with "the largest fiscal adjustment in history of Argentina." He was met with chants of "freedom!" in Spanish.
        
        Meanwhile there were small protests outside both the awards ceremony and the meeting between Milei and Scholz, with demonstrators carrying signs reading "down with Milei, down with the far-right government" and "Argentina is not for sale" in Spanish and German.
        
        The award and demonstrations have underscored Milei’s reputation as a globally polarizing figure, fueling the adoration of some and hatred of others.
        
        The trip in Germany comes after a <a href="https://apnews.com/article/spain-argentina-milei-visit-diplomacy-788fecb50a955b5edac2cd500f720e48" xmlns="http://iptc.org/std/NITF/2006-10-18/">controversial trip to Spain</a>, where Milei made no plans to meet with senior government officials, amid <a href="https://apnews.com/article/milei-spain-sanchez-government-socialism-argentina-tension-state-visit-87a5479b95d6d0ed5d109b0b6c103f06" xmlns="http://iptc.org/std/NITF/2006-10-18/">a diplomatic crisis</a> engulfing the long-standing allies.
        
        Instead, Milei met with Madrid's powerful rightwing regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who is an outspoken opponent of Spain’s center-left Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Milei was met by cheering crowds in some parts of Madrid.
        
        Milei has generated a <a href="https://apnews.com/article/milei-petro-lopez-obrador-tensions-bbf6b7ad87143938d32bf2106c7a4588" xmlns="http://iptc.org/std/NITF/2006-10-18/">number of diplomatic spats</a> with his outspoken style and controversial opinions since becoming president last December. On Monday, he is expected in the Czech Republic, where he will meet with Czech leaders.
        



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