Argentina's new president sworn in promising new era, references Hanukkah
Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky attended the inauguration, and was gifted a menorah by the new Argentinian president
Argentina's new president Javier Milei took office Sunday, with his trademark brashness, and references to the Hanukkah legend of the Maccabees in his inauguration speech.
The political outsider also issued a stark warning to citizens to brace themselves for painful austerity measures as he seeks to cut spending and curb triple-digit inflation.
The 53-year-old libertarian addressed thousands of supporters from the steps of Congress, who waved flags and chanted "freedom!" and "chainsaw!" in reference to the power tool he carried around on the campaign trail to symbolize spending cuts.
"There is no money," said Milei, vowing to put an end to "decades of decadence" by his overspending predecessors who he said had left him "the worst inheritance" of any prior government.
Latin America's third-biggest economy is on its knees after decades of debt and financial mismanagement, with annual inflation at 140 percent and 40 percent of Argentines living in poverty.
Milei said his election was a turning point in history like "the fall of the Berlin wall," and that the only solution for the economy is "shock treatment." "We know that in the short term the situation will worsen. But then we will see the fruits of our efforts."
Striking an optimistic tone, Milei said, "It's no coincidence that this presidential inauguration occurs during the festival of Hanukkah, the celebration of light."
He continued with a reference to the story of the Maccabees, the Jewish rebels who defeated the Greek emperor Antiochus and rededicated the Second Temple, invoking a miracle that inspired the holiday of Hanukkah.
"The war of the Maccabees is the symbol of triumph of the weak over the powerful. Of the few over the many. Of the light over darkness. And above all: of truth over lies. Because you all know that I prefer to tell you a hard truth rather than a comfortable lie."
The former television panelist entered politics just two years ago, winning over voters tired with establishment parties from the left and right, while alienating many with his extreme views on abortion and gay rights. His bombastic nature earned him comparisons to former U.S. president Donald Trump, and neighboring Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro.
While Milei secured the presidency, few members of his party were voted into Congress. He has since forged alliances with members of former president Mauricio Macri's conservative party.
During his campaign, Milei visited with the local Jewish community, and spoke of his deep interest in the Jewish faith, even raising questions of a possible conversion. Milei has also promised to move Argentina's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Just before his inauguration, Milei met with Israel's foreign minister Eli Cohen, who visited Argentina with a delegation of families whose loved ones were taken hostage during the October 7 massacre, many of whom are dual Argentinian nationals.
Among the foreign leaders in attendance at Sunday's inauguration was Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky, who is making his first trip to Latin America since the start of the war against Russia.
Milei, who had voiced clear support for Ukraine during his election campaign, warmly embraced the Jewish Ukrainian president after the ceremony and gifted him a menorah. In turn, Zelensky congratulated Milei and the country on a "new beginning," and said he looked forward to expanding their bilateral cooperation.