Inside Argentine President Javier Milei’s bizarre rock show 

By May 28, 2024

Buenos Aires, Argentina — Last Wednesday, a crowd began to form outside Luna Park stadium in Buenos Aires.

Since its construction in the early 1900s, the 8,000-plus capacity facility has hosted Pope John Paul II, a laundry list of world-class boxers, and the Harlem Globetrotters. But on Wednesday, the crowd gathered to watch a rock concert — headlined by Argentina’s eccentric and controversial President Javier Milei. 

The three-hour event was actually more of a mix between a bizarre rock show, a Libertarian economic summit, a book premiere and a political rally. DBN, a music company that also manages Milei’s book royalties, rented the stadium and the ruling party La Libertad Avanza distributed the tickets among its supporters.

Image credit: Sebastián Rodríguez Mora

On the sidewalk, Milei supporters — rich ones, poor ones, young and old — negotiated to buy USD $8 yellow t-shirts with the inscription “There’s No Money,” a reference to the enormous national budget cuts that the government has been making since December, when Milei took office. Some waved flags from Milei’s political party, others carried posters emblazoned with political slogans or the Gadsden flag, still others donned masks of Donald Trump, one of Milei’s international political allies. 

Image credit: Sebastián Rodríguez Mora

“I’m hoarse, sorry, I can’t speak right now,” a man dressed in a lion costume — the animal Milei’s team often uses to reference him on social media — told Argentina Reports in passing. 

Jorge Ibáñez, a retired municipal employee who walked away from the crowds and wasn’t attending the show that night, told Argentina Reports, “A democratic leader does not leave people starving,” referring to the high costs of food and basic goods following Milei’s removal of government price controls. Milei has maintained that measures like these are necessary to curb the country’s sky-high inflation. 

Read more: Poverty levels in Argentina hit 20-year high as income can’t keep up with inflation  

“These people here tonight, they don’t know what they’re supporting,” Ibáñez said, calling Milei undemocratic. 

Image credit: Sebastián Rodríguez Mora

On the street just outside Luna Park stadium, as the crowd awaited Milei’s first appearance, Argentina Reports spoke to María Celeste Ponce, a congresswoman from Córdoba province and a member of La Libertad Avanza. 

She said that hosting an event like this is meant to show the support Milei has garnered. “As a party we are always connected with people, especially over social media, where we are fighting the cultural battle against socialism,” she said. “This event shows that the people are with Javier and support his government.”

When asked about the Milei government’s struggle to pass some of his sweeping economic and social reforms through Congress and the Senate, Ponce said, “We were ready to endure a rough path.”

She went on: “Since January we’ve been working on this bill, conceding changes in multiple points of the text. But if they want to change everything in our proposal, they should have won the elections in November. This is not consensus, this is unfair political pressure. We’ll prevail.” 

Image credit: Sebastián Rodríguez Mora

Read more: Challenges of Javier Milei’s ‘Omnibus Bill’ persist in Argentine Senate

Inside the stadium, press were corralled into an area in the back far away from the stage, and weren’t allowed to use professional devices to film. 

The Rolling Stones and AC/DC songs blasted through the loudspeakers as a warm up for the audience. “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young was even on the playlist at Luna Park that night. 

Suddenly, spotlights swirling, the president emerged through the crowd, flanked by his bodyguards. He walked through the crowd of his supporters toward the stage where is so-called Liberal Band awaited. Covered in sweat after greeting and taking selfies with his fans, Milei climbed up the stage and took the microphone. 

Image credit: Sebastián Rodríguez Mora

“Hello everyone, I’m the lion,” he shouted to the roaring audience. Milei sang once again his cover version of “Panic Show”, a song by the Argentine power-trio La Renga — who has repeatedly asked the president and his party to stop using their music at rallies. “I am the king and I will destroy you,” Milei cried, following the lyrics. 

When the song came to an end, Milei traded his long leather jacket for a suit jacket and dropped his rockstar persona; he now became a sort of economic scholar. Donning reading glasses, he proceeded to give a one-hour, rambling speech about the tenets of anarcho Libertarianism. 

Looking around the arena, one could feel the crowd’s energy deflate, their eyes alternating between Milei on stage and their cell phone screens. 

With a poor view of the on-stage theatrics from the press gallery, I walked around and spoke with more Milei supporters inside Luna Park. 

Image credit: Sebastián Rodríguez Mora

“I came here to support an outsider, a mad man. I consider myself like that, I’m a rebel,” said Gabriel Caruso. Donning a Tesla baseball cap, Caruso, who said he worked at Argentina’s national bank, believes Milei is a “common man and a genius at the same time. He was touched by divine forces and wasn’t on anybody’s plan.”

Dancing along with the music, Caruso added, “Argentina has been living in a corruption orgy for the last 200 years. Politicians are getting richer and the people poorer. Milei is different because he funded his campaign with his own resources.” According to Argentina’s electoral justice office, Milei funded 87.5% of his campaign with federal resources, as electoral law mandates. 

Caruso justified the current economic hardships facing many Argentines as necessary housekeeping. “If you have debts, you need to shrink yourself. If you refinance your credit card debt, you generate reliability. Argentina is a country nobody trusts,” he said.

“If I have to grab a gun to defend Milei against opposition, I’ll do it,” Caruso said.

Sixteen-year-old Facundo Labate attended that night’s concert with his mother. As I spoke to Labate, his mother proudly filmed him on her smartphone. 

“I voted for Milei during the 2023 elections and I think he’s achieving everything he promised. Even under this austerity plan, his popularity remains the same,” said Labate. The teenager said that Milei is getting an unfair shake from the press. “People voted for him. Now the media and opposition must put up with it,” he said.

Image credit: Sebastián Rodríguez Mora

Mara Barloa was attending the show from La Matanza, Argentina’s most populated municipality located in the province of Buenos Aires. She said that local La Libertad Avanza leaders had gotten her tickets and she arrived on a bus with others from neighboring municipalities. 

“I left home at two in the afternoon to get here in time,” she said. Barloa added that La Matanza is facing a “cultural battle” because 70% of their population voted for Milei’s opposition. “But the tide is changing. A lot of corruption is soaring,” she said. 

In March, it was reported that sales for small businesses in La Matanza dropped some 40%. When asked if the current economic troubles are generating any criticism for Milei’s party, Barloa said no. “People who complain or criticize are the ones who lost some political privileges. I mean people who received a  municipality salary without going to work,” she underlined.

As the event wrapped up, Milei shouted, “Long live freedom, damn it!” By that time, the stadium was half-empty as many of his supporters had returned to their homes. 

Outside on the sidewalk, a street vendor hawking the yellow “There’s No Money” t-shirts looked despondent. She said she had expected more sales that night.