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BTS and Taylor Swift fans give Javier Milei and his running mate an earful

Weeks before Argentina’s run-off election, far-right populist Javier Milei and his running mate, Victoria Villaruel, have found themselves under pressure from an unexpected quarter: an alliance of Taylor Swift supporters and K-pop fans.

Milei, a radical libertarian who has proposed dollarizing Argentina’s economy and even legalizing the organ trade, topped the polls ahead of Sunday’s first round, but was beaten into second place by the centrist finance minister, Sergio Massa.

Massa, 51, and Milei, 53, are now scrambling to pick up votes ahead of a second round on 19 November.

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But on Thursday, a new front on the electoral battlefield opened, when a group of Argentinian Taylor Swift fans described Milei and his Freedom Advances party as representatives of “the anti-democratic right”, saying “Milei is Trump.”

“Candidates from [Freedom Advances] have described the deaths, torture and forced disappearances committed during the dictatorship as ‘excesses’, believe that marriage equality is unnecessary, say that feminism is a lie, that there is no gender pay gap, and are considering legalizing the organ trade,” tweeted an account in the name of Swifties against Freedom Advances.

“As Taylor says, we have to be on the right side of history,” the group tweeted.

Swift has sold out three shows at the 80,000-seat capacity River Plate football stadium in Buenos Aires just a week before the runoff vote.

Jorge Rial, one of Argentina’s biggest TV presenters, described the moment as “a mortal blow” for the firebrand rightwinger.

“You’ve just made the biggest mistake in your life, you messed with Taylor Swift fans. Step down, idiot, you can’t beat this,” Rial said.

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Meanwhile, Milei’s running mate Victoria Villarruel has come under fire from BTS fans enraged by a string of recently rediscovered 2020 tweets, including one in which she suggested the band’s name sounded like “a sexually transmitted disease”.

“We repudiate the statements of hatred and xenophobia towards the image of BTS uttered by candidate Victoria Villarruel,” tweeted the BTS in Argentina account.

The seven-member South Korean band is a worldwide music phenomenon and one of the few groups since the Beatles to place four No 1 albums in the US in under two years.

Villarruel’s only reaction on Wednesday was a post lamenting the “avalanche of notifications for funny conversations typical of Twitter from a thousand years ago”.

The Argentinian politician Juan Grabois, who lost his centre-left alliance’s nomination to Sergio Massa in the August primaries, responded to the exchange with a warning:

“You mess with BTS, you mess with me,” Grabois posted. “You don’t fuck with K-pop.”

Se mete con BTS, se mete conmigo, señora malvada. Con el k-pop no se jode. https://t.co/kW8sBC78FH

— Juan Grabois (@JuanGrabois) October 25, 2023

Villarruel has often used social media to stir up culture war rows over everything from reproductive rights to short men.

But she reserves particular venom for posts on human rights and Indigenous rights issues.

She has repeatedly criticised human rights organizations, suggesting that a Milei government would cut off their government funding, and has frequently attacked the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo campaign group, founded by relatives of victims of the dictatorship.

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Villarruel has also criticised the use of LGBTQ+ and Indigenous community flags in classrooms, saying that such “indoctrination and effacing of our national identity” would end if she and Milei were elected.

Responding to her comments about BTS on Thursday, Alejandro Kim, a former vice-president of the Argentinian-Korean chamber of commerce, pointed out that the band is responsible for around half a percent of South Korea’s GDP.

“Congratulations! You combined xenophobia, racism and ignorance in 200 characters!” he added.