Argentina's President-elect Javier Milei gestures during a session at the Argentine Congress in Buenos Aires on Nov. 29, 2023, where he is officially declared the winner of the runoff. Credit: JUAN MABROMATA/AFP via Getty Images.

Editor's Note: Jorge G. Castañeda is a CNN contributor. He was Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs from 2000 to 2003, during the government of Vicente Fox Quesada. He is currently a professor at New York University and his most recent book, "America Through Foreign Eyes," was published by Oxford University Press in 2020. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author. You can find more opinion pieces on

(CNN Español) -- The election of Javier Milei to the presidency of Argentina will have various effects in his own country: from the consequences of a new governmental failure – the most likely – to an unexpected success of radical, unusual, experimental proposals. The world will be interested in knowing the fate of these proposals, nothing more. It will be in Latin America, however, where the consequences of the triumph of the "libertarian," as he defines himself, or the extremist and iconoclast, as many others perceive him, will be felt the most. For this reason, it is interesting to make a preliminary analysis of the reactions that already exist and are likely in other countries of the region in the face of an unforeseen event for several leaders.

The first Latin American response tended to be one of surprise and disappointment or discomfort. It is logical: most of the most important countries in the region are governed by self-proclaimed left-wing leaders and parties, therefore more sympathetic to Peronism. Many of them, such as López Obrador in Mexico and Lula in Brazil, had built close personal relationships with Alberto Fernández, the acting president in Argentina. And many also seem to have believed the analysts who predicted a victory for Sergio Massa, the Peronist candidate. Thus, bewilderment and disgust quickly became widespread.

Lula expressed his displeasure, within diplomatic canons, and would have threatened not to attend Milei's inauguration, especially if Jair Bolsonaro, the former Brazilian president, attended. López Obrador considered that the Argentine people scored an "own goal," and Gustavo Petro, of Colombia, lamented that Latin America had experienced a "sad" day by electing Milei. Chile's Gabriel Boric was cautious, while other more outspoken presidents — Maduro in Venezuela, Díaz-Canel in Cuba — issued high-sounding statements or simply remained silent. Luis Lacalle Pou, the president of Uruguay, on the contrary, congratulated Milei by phone from China, where he was on an official visit.

The first litmus test will be Milei's inauguration on December 10. First of all, we will see how the other members of Mercosur, or Argentina's neighbors, act. Brazil will have to decide who to send. For Lula, attending together with Bolsonaro seems impossible, even though Milei has sent him a formal invitation; Abandoning the trip, because of all Milei's virulent statements against the president of Brazil before his election, would make it difficult for Brazilian diplomacy and trade to have an indispensable link with the neighbor. Moreover, the presence of President Viktor Orban and Santiago Abascal, the far-right in Hungary and VOX in Spain, will surely not encourage Lula to appear. Joe Biden and Andrés Manuel López Obrador have already declined the invitation, citing scheduling conflicts.


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Of the other full members of Mercosur, Paraguay will likely attend and Bolivian President Luis Arce, according to local press, is reviewing his schedule to see if he can attend; Boric has announced his intention to travel. The key, however, will lie in Milei's stance on Mercosur; there he will meet two left-wing partners – Brazil and Bolivia – and two rather conservative ones – Uruguay and Paraguay. On the one hand, he should not be very pleased with the idea of such an association: during the campaign he claimed that it was a flawed customs union that "harmed good Argentines". On the other hand, despite the almost permanent crisis of the mechanism, it is of great importance for Buenos Aires, especially in view of the difficulties of concluding bilateral free trade agreements with the European Union, and the absence of prospects for any negotiations with the United States. The hope of Milei's team that the Mercosur-EU agreement will be signed soon seems a bit wishful.

A second Latin American impact of Milei's election will be reflected in the possible changes in the correlation of forces in regional political organizations, such as the OAS and CELAC. The preponderance of left-wing governments in the region revitalized CELAC – to which Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua belong, but not the United States or Canada – and Argentina's favorable stance contributed to a large extent to its supposed relaunch, precisely under the pro tempore presidency of the current head of state, Alberto Fernández. Similarly, in the OAS, Argentina's reluctance to vote in favor of the application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter to Nicaragua facilitated the formation of a bloc that vetoed this procedure. Milei is likely to take a dim view of such a procedure with Nicaragua, although it would have no effect, since the country ceased to belong to the OAS last month. In any case, the bilateral relationship between the two countries does not look promising. Less than a week after the inauguration, the Ortega regime withdrew its ambassador to Buenos Aires.

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In general terms, leaving aside the stridency of one side and the other during the Argentine campaign and now in the transition between the two governments, it is likely that Milei will separate himself from the Latin American left bloc, without confronting each of the countries bilaterally. The change in the regional balance is important, but not decisive. In the same way, future Foreign Minister Diana Modino already said that Argentina would not join the BRICS in a recent tweet of her X account, and it seems feasible that she will retract to some extent Fernández's support for Russia shortly before the conflict with Ukraine broke out. Let's say, Buenos Aires will move from an affinity with the Bolivarian bloc of Latin America and its "active non-alignment," in the expression of Jorge Heine and Carlos Ominami, to a position closer to Washington. This is no small matter.

Javier Milei