- Author, Veronica Smink
- Role, BBC News Mundo, Argentina
One of the many idiosyncrasies of Javier Milei, the “libertarian” economist who has just been elected the next president of Argentina, is that he frequently cites religious texts, particularly Judaism, a religion he studies with a rabbi.
“I didn’t come here to lead lambs. “I came to wake up lions,” is, perhaps, his best-known phrase.
But it was another of his biblical references – one that he repeated again this Sunday, in his first speech after his electoral victory – that inspired the name with which the group of militants, composed mainly of young people, called themselves, which was key to the meteoric rise of the libertarian.
“Triumph in war does not come from the number of soldiers, but from the forces that come from heaven.”
This is a quote from the book of Maccabees, which refers to the revolt of a Jewish liberation movement against the army of Greek invaders in 166 BC.
Milei spoke it for the first time in 2021, when he had just entered the political arena by becoming a national deputy, in a block made up of just two people: him and Victoria Villarruel, the lawyer who will be his vice president on December 10.
As he explained, it was his response to those who questioned the weight that his new party, La Libertad Avanza (LLA), would have in Congress.
But the young liberals who followed Milei on social networks with the same fervor that some religious leaders and many celebrities arouse – and who had helped popularize the former television commentator, leading him to obtain an unexpected 17% of the votes in the city of Buenos Aires -, they felt identified with the phrase and spontaneously began to define themselves as “The Forces of Heaven.”
“It became an identity, we are the force of heaven, militancy. It would be like La Cámpora for Kirchnerism,” one of those supporters who helped make Milei viral explained to the newspaper Clarín.
The economist himself echoed the informal name of his troop of digital supporters.
“What time do the members of the Forces of Heaven vote tomorrow?” he tweeted one day before the August primaries that – against all odds – saw him as the most popular candidate.
A “network product”
“Javier (Milei) is the first genuine product of the networks, born from the viralization and cuts of WhatsApp. “He is the first to emerge from this new political paradigm,” says Yamil Santoro, leader of the liberal United Republicans party, in “El Loco,” Milei’s biography, written by journalist Juan Luis González.
“The great vectors that previously could be economic groups or large media They are no longer the only determining factor. Today, through the networks, you have the genuine possibility of having a direct relationship with the electorate,” he stated.
Iñaki Gutiérrez, a 22-year-old influencer who became Milei’s community manager, explained to BBC correspondent Katy Watson how he became in charge of the libertarian’s digital strategy. .
“I met Milei through my girlfriend and I met with him to share the idea I had… that the Brexit campaign, in the United Kingdom, and that of (former President Donald) Trump in the United States, had been carried out through Facebook, and (Jair) Bolsonaro’s in Brazil was through Instagram, and it seemed to me that the campaign in Argentina could be through TikTok,” he noted.
Gutiérrez highlighted the relevance that these social networks had for the success of La Libertad Avanza, which went from being a minority party in Parliament to leading the government in the space of just two years.
“They were very important because when you have a campaign with as little funding as ours, it is important to take advantage of these types of tools that cost nothing and, in addition, allow us to reach a large number of people,” he stated.
“Javier’s TikToks are seen by 7 million, 10 million, 15 million people, so you can reach a lot of people without using money,” he explained.
Disenchanted young people
But who are the “soldiers” that make up Milei’s sky forces?
The TikToker highlighted that it is above all about under 30 years old.
“The young people were the ones who created this movement and took it to the government,” Gutiérrez told the BBC.
According to the consultants, the majority of those who voted for Milei in the primaries and the first round of elections are men between 16 and 29 years old, although four out of every 10 voters were women.
Juan Luis González, who published Milei’s unauthorized biography this year, noted that many of the young people who follow him feel excluded from the progressive policies of recent years, such as the legalization of abortion and the feminist movement and women’s rights. sexual minorities.
Many were also very angry due to the long confinement -which lasted more than eight months- ordered by the government of Alberto Fernández during the coronavirus pandemic, says González.
But, above all, they are fed up with “the usual politicians” – “the caste, Milei calls them – who have not managed to find a way out of the very long economic crisis, which has been going on for decades, with inflation that has rarely fallen below double digits, and currently exceeds 140% year-on-year.
According to Milei’s biographer, “he gave hope to young people who had lost hope.”
Political analyst Facundo Cruz, from the Research Center for Democratic Quality (Cicad), agrees with the effectiveness of the work of Iñaki Gutiérrez and the militancy of La Libertad Avanza.
“The short TikTok videos where Milei simply explains things that are tremendously complex“They are messages that resonated very well with young people,” he told BBC Mundo.
The political scientist pointed out that the digital campaign of the Forces of Heaven was key to the victory of the “anarcho-capitalist” candidate.
“The community spaces in networks became their basic party units,” he stated.
“They viralized Milei and nationalized him.”
However, he warned that this new “half-anarchic” way of doing politics “from the individual” has its problems.
“Each one is active for Milei, but there are few organization and coordination processes, each one has their own agendas,” he said.
The lack of a traditional party structure could complicate the LLA’s ability to govern, he noted.
“A political party gives you the structure and organization so that when decisions have to be made, a certain guideline is followed.
“Now comes the challenge of seeing how LLA is going to function organically, who is going to make the decisions, what the authority roles are going to be.”
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The post first appeared on www.bbc.com