On Monday, following a shocking Argentine primary election win by far-right libertarian candidate for President Javier Milei, Argentina’s central bank devalued its currency, the peso, by almost 18%, and jacked up the bank’s benchmark interest rate by a massive 21% to 118%.
The government made the moves in a bid to assuage investor fears following the congressman’s surprise victory, in which he took the largest share of votes in the nation’s presidential primary election, with about 30%, exceeding all forecasts by a large measure.
Markets were pricing in moderate candidates performing successfully in the primary. The country will hold its presidential election in October.
Argentinian stocks, and the nation’s sovereign dollar bonds were also down Monday.
On Monday the central bank said that until the vote in October, it would hold the peso at a rate of 350 to the dollar.
Milei has made numerous statements hostile to central banking, at one point saying, “The central bank is a scam. It is a mechanism by which politicians cheat people through the inflationary tax.” As public discontent has grown, so has his popularity amid his calls to get rid of the central bank, to dollarize the Argentinian economy, and to sharply cut government spending.
Argentina, the third-largest economy in Latin America, has endured years of economic and financial crises. With inflation forecast at 142.4% for the year, and the nation’s foreign reserves dwindling, citizens are eager for radical change.
The nation is now in the midst of its sixth recession in ten years. Against that backdrop, Milei had railed against what he refers to as the corrupt political class, claiming the nation has swung from one crisis to another under their leadership.
He has proposed replacing the peso with the dollar, as a means of controlling inflation, however many economists have asserted that would only trigger financial chaos.