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Those who know Javier Milei well say that the president-elect of Argentina was always interested in the economy and nothing in politics. Issues such as the democratic transition, human rights policy, progress in civil liberties or equality issues were always off his agenda. With the economy functioning and the individual in freedom, he always believed. Until he met Victoria Villarruel, now vice president-elect.
Villarruel, a 48-year-old lawyer, is one of the three deputies that La Libertad Avanza (LLA) won in 2021. Until then, she was known for her defense of the victims of terrorism, of the 1,094 deaths in the 70s, when left, ultra-left and ultra-right Peronist armed organizations acted.
On Sunday, as she went to vote, Villarruel was rebuked by relatives of those who disappeared during the dictatorship that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983. They accused him of "denialism", justifying that dictatorship and ignoring the drama of the disappeared. Human rights organizations speak of 30,000 disappeared, but both Milei and Villarruel point out that official figures from the National Commission for the Disappearance of Persons (Conadep) indicate 7,954 people.
Villarruel reacted very upset by the small demonstration that greeted her at the polling station. "Today is the day of democracy, any other claim is out of place. It is the first time that the daughter of a veteran of the Falklands, of a military man, has become vice president. I don't know what bothers them, who have had children of terrorists and terrorists in government positions. Those who are bothered by the fact that democracy includes all of us are the violent ones."
Is Villarruel a "denier"? "No, I don't know how to use that word," Andrés Malamud, one of the country's sharpest political analysts, told El Mundo.
Pola Oloixarac, a journalist and writer, does not agree with Malamud. "Villarruel pays tribute to the victims of terrorism, which is something I agree with, because all victims of terrorism have to be honored," he told EL MUNDO.
"But what she embodies is also something else: a vindication of the dictatorship, even the way in which she questions Estela de Carlotto (president of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo), to whom she tells that if her daughter was a terrorist, stop playing dumb. As if Carlotto had hidden it, or as if the mere fact of being a terrorist justified or endorsed the appropriation of children, torture and the disappearance of a person. The military acted outside the law, but that's not part of Villarruel's vision."
The future vice president, who should make a transition of command with Cristina Kirchner as head of the Senate, will be in charge of the areas of Security, Armed Forces and intelligence services.
Villarruel, a true "iron lady" very gifted for dialectical debate, was the clear winner of the two television clashes in the campaign with the Peronist vice-presidential candidate. It feels like the spearhead of a "culture war."
"We are moving a policy that Argentina was stony and was anchored only in the left and in the methods of the left," the vice president-elect told El Mundo. "And that's a great merit of La Libertad Avanza," he added.
Malamud observes one more fact about Villarruel: "His agenda is not liberal, but conservative, and all the vice presidents are loyal until they are not."
A signatory of the Madrid Charter, drafted by Disenso, Vox's foundation, he is a friend of Javier Ortega Smith and has a very good relationship with Santiago Abascal.
Political scientist Ana Iparraguirre told El Mundo that she foresees potential problems between the president-elect and his vice president.
"Villarruel has a much clearer and more comprehensive social agenda than Milei's, which is limited to economic and libertarian thinking and is capable of recognizing mistakes. Villarruel is much more dogmatic in what she thinks. I think we're going to have to wait and see the relationship between them, what role in government each one takes. We have, in Argentina, a history of strong tensions between presidents and vice presidents."
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