Supporters of President Javier Milei cleaned the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Sunday evening following his inauguration, which attracted 25,000 people and included multiple international heads of state among its guests.
Milei, a libertarian economist, was sworn into office on Sunday after winning the presidency in November. In a sobering inauguration speech, he warned that extreme measures to cut government spending and improve the economy were on the way, but expressed optimism for the long-term future of the country.
The celebrations in the Plaza de Mayo and other central locations in Buenos Aires attracted tens of thousands of people, whom Milei addressed on the steps of Congress, breaking with the tradition of speaking indoors. Milei also serenaded the crowd with one of the most popular songs on the campaign trail, drawing cheers.
Once the public ceremonies concluded – and Milei went on to swear in his cabinet officials and sign executive orders – his supporters began distributing brooms, garbage bags, and cleaning supplies to undo the mess created by the event.
La gente limpiando la plaza después de la asunción de Milei.
Somos moralmente superiores. pic.twitter.com/kgr5oXxLR5
— Wally ☘️ (@WalTuit) December 10, 2023
Speaking to reporters on the Argentine network TN, one person helping clean explained that the effort was “spontaneous” and claimed that optimism and appreciation for their country had inspired it.
“It is truly out of a need to see everything clean, to see things well taken care of,” one man said. “It doesn’t make sense to leave everything dirty, we aren’t animals, we aren’t whoever, we are honorable people.”
“A new Argentina is coming,” a woman cleaning alongside the man added.
The Argentine newspaper Clarín reported that similar groups convened in every block of Buenos Aires near the festivities, filling garbage bags. Some observers described the cleaning effort as a “Japanese-style” cleaning, referring to how Japanese soccer fans have developed a reputation for cleaning their stadium areas during FIFA World Cup matches.
Milei supporters did the same thing following the festivities on November 19, when the candidate officially won the presidential election. Videos shown on Argentine media showed libertarians collecting garbage and shouting, “We aren’t Peronists, we clean up our garbage!”
“Peronism” is the socialist movement currently led by former Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and which supported Sergio Massa against Milei. The Kirchner establishment governed almost uninterrupted in Argentina from 2003 to 2023, with the exception of the four-year term of former President Mauricio Macri in 2015. Fernández de Kirchner, who had a duty to help swear in Milei on Sunday, was caught giving the public her middle finger when entering the event.
The cleaning efforts stand as a stark contrast to Buenos Aires’s recent mass events, some of which have erupted in riots or left significant material destruction. In 2020, the funeral of communist Argentine soccer great Diego Armando Maradona devolved into a riot in which soccer fans clashed with police, attempted to storm the Pink House (the presidential office), and engaged in fistfights with each other.
Hay un descontrol total en el funeral de Maradona 😱. #MaradonaEterno
— W Deportes (@deportesWRADIO) November 26, 2020
More recently, in December 2022, Argentina won the World Cup, prompting 5 million people to flood Buenos Aires for the team’s victory parade. The celebrations resulted in mass looting – one man was caught stealing a traffic light in broad daylight – random naked people parading the streets, fans cheering from their stretchers as they were hauled off to the hospital from unspecified injuries, and some attempts by fans to jump off of bridges to land in the national soccer team’s parade float. Officials lamented that the city suffered “unimaginable” physical damage.
Siempre aparece algún idiota que le arruina la fiesta a todos.
Alguien se tiro desde un puente al bus de la selección y eso cortó el desfile. Los jugadores siguieron en helicópteros pic.twitter.com/hjZ05Xjyol
— Andres Agulla (@aagulla_TV) December 20, 2022
— infobae (@infobae) December 20, 2022
Milei, a self-proclaimed libertarian, won the presidency of the country in the November 19 election against establishment socialist Sergio Massa, the minister of economy of the prior administration. Milei ran under his own political party’s ticket, Liberty Advances, and eliminated the establishment center-right candidate, Patricia Bullrich, from the running in a first round of voting in October. Bullrich mended fences with Milei following her exit from the runoff and was sworn in as minister of security on Sunday.
As a third-party politician, Milei’s victory is unprecedented in the young history of Argentine democracy, as is his rapid rise to power. Before becoming president on Sunday, Milei had held only one other public office: a seat in the Argentine Congress that he won in 2021, the first year Liberty Advances competed in an election. For most of his career, Milei has been popularly known as an economist and television commentator.
Milei campaigned on a promise to restore the deteriorated Argentine economy, which under Massa began experiencing the worst economic crisis in its history. Argentines are currently experiencing triple-digit inflation and skyrocketing rates of poverty, unemployment, and emigration. In his inauguration speech, Milei lamented that “no government has received a worse inheritance than what we are getting” from the socialists and warned that the situation would worsen in the short term with “shock” economic therapy policies, but that the policies were the only long-term solution to repair the damage socialism had done to the country.
“Today begins a new era in Argentina. Today we end a long and sad history of decadence and decline and begin the path toward the reconstruction of our country,” Milei promised on Sunday. “Argentines, in a decisive way, expressed a will to change that has no return. There is no turning back. Today we bury decades of failure, infighting, and senseless disputes.”