Argentina’s Javier Milei to Visit White House — But Biden Won’t Meet Him

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Javier Milei, the president-elect of Argentina, is scheduled to visit the White House on Tuesday for the final leg of his whirlwind visit to America this week, but President Joe Biden will not be there.

Milei, an outsider leading a populist libertarian movement that toppled both the establishment center-right and the ruling socialist coalition in the November 19 presidential election, will instead meet with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

On Monday, Milei arrived in New Jersey and made his way to New York for a spiritual visit to the Ohel – a Jewish holy site where the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, is buried – then met with Biden Latin America adviser Christopher Dodd and former President Bill Clinton for lunch.

Argentine political experts have interpreted Milei’s meeting with Dodd and Clinton as a gesture of friendly towards Biden, who he has previously derided as a “threat to Western values.” In the same interview, occurring in August, Milei described Biden as a “left-wing” president and listed left-wing values as “envy, hatred, resentment, unequal treatment before the law, theft and murder.”

Biden waited three days to contact Milei and congratulate him on his election win, although his presidential rival, Sergio Massa, conceded the election before the results were publicly available. In a phone conversation, the White House said in a readout that Biden and Milei “discussed the importance of continuing to build on the strong relationship between the United States and Argentina on economic issues, on regional and multilateral cooperation, and on shared priorities.”

During a briefing on Monday, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Relations John Kirby said Biden would snub Milei, despite the Argentine president-elect being in the White House itself, due to previously arranged travel.

“President-elect Milei will be coming to Washington, D.C., largely to meet with the IMF over — and the World Bank — over — over their fiscal and economic issues,” Kirby told reporters, “But while he’s here in town, he’ll have a chance to meet with some National Security Council folks, including Jake Sullivan.”

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No plans to meet with the President. The President will, as I think you know, will be on travel in the middle of the week,” Kirby added.

Biden is expected in Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday to attend the funeral of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

“The President won’t, unfortunately, be able to meet with him because of domestic travel. But obviously, we want to continue to look for ways to cooperate with Argentina,” Kirby said, answering a second question on Milei’s visit and reframing Biden’s absence as not an intentional snub.

“Argentina is a — a healthy and vibrant partner in this hemisphere on many, many issues. And so, we’re looking forward to obviously hearing what the president-elect’s ideas are and where he wants to go on policy issues and making sure that we have a chance to keep that line of channel — that channel of communication open.”

Milei was initially expected to hold several meetings in Washington, including visits to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to whom Argentina is heavily indebted, and the State Department and Treasury. Instead, according to the Argentine newspaper Clarín, Milei will fly back to Buenos Aires after his meeting with Sullivan at the White House. The newspaper did note that State Department officials will attend the White House meeting, expected to take place at 1 p.m. local time. A sector of Milei’s small entourage will also hold meetings with Treasury officials separate from the president-elect, ABC News reported.

Argentina’s economy, and saving it from a complete collapse, was reportedly the top issue in Milei’s meeting with Dodd and Clinton, which Argentine media characterized as a way for Milei to pitch his reforms to Biden through intermediaries.

The Associated Press

Javier Milei and his girlfriend Fatima Florez wave to supporters outside his campaign headquarters after winning the runoff election in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Gerardo Werthein, a Milei entourage member expected to potentially be nominated as Argentina’s ambassador to America, told the Argentine newspaper La Nación that Dodd and Clinton grilled Milei on his plan to reform the Argentine economy. Argentina’s inflation rate hit 124 percent in September, fueling skyrocketing rates of poverty, a soaring cost of living, and growing social unrest. Argentina’s currency, the peso, has lost most of its value, and its foreign currency reserves are low enough to prompt alarm regarding whether Buenos Aires can make its routine debt payments next month.

“They asked him many questions,” Werthein told the newspaper, referring to Dodd and Clinton. “He responded to them all with lots of clarity.”

“He [Milei] explained what his plan is and how he was going to do it and as a corollary to that meeting, which we could say was very good, he deserves to put forward a project to benefit all Argentines, but above all, those who have the least,” he added.

Werthein also said that, in America, Milei found “a great collaboration to help Argentina to move forward.”

Milei himself described his lunch as “excellent” and claimed the two Democrats “were very aligned with our ideas.”

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