How Milei and Bukele Became Influential Figures for Trump and the Conservative Right in the US

How Milei and Bukele Became Influential Figures for Trump and the Conservative Right in the US

In recent times, a remarkable occurrence has taken place within the right-wing movement that supports Donald Trump in the United States. Two Latin American presidents, Nayib Bukele of El Salvador and Javier Milei of Argentina, have joined the ranks of international stars admired by this conservative base.

Both Bukele and Milei delivered influential speeches at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held in Maryland, where Trump himself was the unquestioned protagonist.

Bukele’s Approach

Nayib Bukele, the president of El Salvador, has gained significant attention for his tough stance against crime and his efforts to combat gang violence in his country. Bukele’s approach, characterized by his strongman style of governance and his tough-on-crime policies, resonates with Trump’s emphasis on security as a key campaign issue.

Despite criticism from human rights groups, Bukele’s actions have led to a significant reduction in homicides in El Salvador. His presence at CPAC signifies a recognition by the US conservative base that his brand of leadership is popular and gaining momentum beyond US borders.

Milei’s Economic Plan

Javier Milei, a libertarian economist from Argentina, has captured the attention of the conservative right with his radical economic proposals. Milei advocates for the elimination of state subsidies and the reduction of government spending, which aligns with the conservative economic agenda in the US.

His distinctive campaign symbol, a chainsaw representing his commitment to cutting wasteful spending, resonated with the CPAC audience. Milei’s presence at the conference reflects the US conservatives’ appreciation for his unapologetic stance against socialism and his market-oriented policies.

Significance of CPAC

The presence of Bukele and Milei at CPAC, a conference traditionally focused on US conservative issues, signifies a shift in the perception of Latin America within the right-wing movement. Historically, the region has been seen as a source of problems related to migration and drug trafficking rather than a wellspring of political inspiration.

However, the invitation extended to Bukele and Milei demonstrates a recognition of the benefits of engaging with Latin American leaders who share common values and policy objectives.

Invitation to Milei

Matt Schlapp, the president of CPAC, revealed that the idea of inviting Javier Milei originated from hearing him speak at a similar event in Mexico in November 2022. Schlapp was impressed by Milei’s plan to eliminate state subsidies and admired his use of the chainsaw symbol to represent cutting government spending.

The invitation to Milei symbolizes the conservative base’s appreciation for his economic proposals and his commitment to reducing the role of the state in the economy.

Bukele’s Tough Stance on Crime

Nayib Bukele’s tough-on-crime approach, characterized by a crackdown on gangs and high rates of incarceration, resonates with Trump’s focus on law and order. Bukele’s success in reducing crime rates in El Salvador, albeit with allegations of human rights abuses, is seen by CPAC attendees as a model for addressing security concerns.

The conservative right in the US, particularly those residing in major cities, perceive Bukele’s actions as a means to make their streets safer.

Appeal of Strongman Leadership

Erica Frantz, a political science professor at Michigan State University, suggests that Bukele and Milei’s presence at CPAC serves as an opportunity for Trump and his conservative base to highlight the popularity and growing influence of strongman-style governance outside the US.

Frantz argues that it is not solely about mobilizing the US Latino electorate but rather an effort to normalize autocratic rhetoric and promote the idea that strongman politics is the only way to address societal issues.

Milei’s Political Baptism

Javier Milei’s speech at CPAC marked a significant moment in his political career. Previously hesitant to align himself with any particular political ideology, Milei’s decision to speak at CPAC and his reception by the audience solidified his position as a figure of the right.

Giancarlo Summa, a researcher at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris, believes that Milei’s speech served as a political baptism, as he embraced the right-wing identity that had already embraced him as an idol.

Bukele’s Critiques and Advice

During his CPAC speech, Nayib Bukele aimed to resonate with the conservative audience by criticizing common targets of the right, such as non-governmental organizations and billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

However, as a leader accused of undermining democracy and consolidating power, Bukele’s advice to fight against globalism and its defenders can be interpreted in different ways. His call to identify underlying forces that may conspire against the next US president reflects his own experience in El Salvador and resonates with conservative concerns about the influence of globalist agendas.

International Connections

Presence of Bukele, Milei, and other foreign politicians at CPAC demonstrates the conference’s role in fostering international connections between like-minded conservatives.

The participation of Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and a Trump ally, highlights the network of right-wing leaders seeking to strengthen ties and share their experiences. Bukele and Milei’s attendance at CPAC signals their desire to establish favorable relations with Trump, particularly in the event of his potential return to the presidency.

Potential Risks and Rewards

While Bukele and Milei may reap certain benefits from their participation in CPAC, there are also potential risks. If Joe Biden is reelected, tensions may arise due to their association with Trump.

Additionally, Bukele’s human rights record and Milei’s controversial positions on women’s rights could lead to opposition from the Biden administration. However, the conservative right sees this risk as an opportunity to demonstrate the popularity and resilience of their style of governance.


The presence of Nayib Bukele and Javier Milei at the Conservative Political Action Conference signifies a shift in the perception of Latin American leaders within the conservative right in the US. Bukele’s tough stance on crime and Milei’s radical economic proposals align with the conservative agenda, making them influential figures for Trump and his supporters.

While their attendance at CPAC carries risks, it also provides an opportunity to highlight the popularity of strongman leadership and promote their shared values and policy objectives.