Javier Milei sings punk rock in leather coat at Buenos Aires book launch

Javier Milei has performed at his own rock concert to launch a new book, after pulling out of Argentina’s biggest literary fair over criticism from its “Leftist” organisers.

The Argentinian president, 53, donned a black leather coat for a rendition of a punk rock song in Buenos Aires on Wednesday, before leading a more conventional discussion on economic theory.

“I’m the king, I’m the lion!” sang Mr Milei during the musical opening, which saw him joined on stage by Congressman “Bertie” Benegas Lynch, a political supporter, on drums. Milei’s biographer played bass.

I eat the elite for breakfast!” Milei continued, performing a cover version of Panic Show, by Argentinian rock band La Renga, to the delight of a 10,000-strong crowd at the city’s Luna Park arena.

Mr Milei has often targeted Argentina’s political elite, whom he describes as the “caste” that has caused the economy to slide and annual inflation to balloon towards 300 per cent.

Javier Milei gestures charismatically in a spotlight on a dark stage
Mr Milei acted as frontman, with his biographer playing bass - Luis Robayo/AFP

The libertarian politician had initially planned to promote his book Capitalism, Socialism and the Neoclassical Trap at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair, the country’s top literary event, which began earlier this month.

However, when Left-leaning organisers attacked his government for defunding the country’s cultural institutions, he pulled out and switched to a downtown location for his own unique free-entry event.

“With an attempted boycott, you gave us this party,” he told the crowd in a message to the literary fair organisers.

Mr Milei, who took office in December, is no stranger to singing in public.

His love for rock music dates back to school, where he started a Rolling Stones tribute band called Everest and was known for routines in which he danced like Mick Jagger.

Mr Milei snarls into a microphone in this close-up shot
Mr Milei told the crowd: 'I really wanted to sing' - Luis Robayo/AFP

Performances of Panic Show, with reworked lyrics, have also been an occasional feature at his campaign events. Mr Milei has ignored objections from La Ranga over its use.

The lyric about being “a lion” particularly resonates with Mr Milei, who often depicts himself as the animal, fierce in slashing the nation’s budget and trampling on the political establishment.

“I wanted to do this because I really wanted to sing,” he told the crowd before removing his coat at the end of the performance to reveal a more conventional business suit.

At that point, he embarked on a more serious discussion about his book, which calls on governments to curtail state intervention and allow free markets to prevail.

“Market failures do not exist. First, check there is no state intervention,” he said as many of the music fans started to disperse, leaving a half-empty arena for the economics conversation.

A supporter dressed as Milei, complete with wig
A supporter dressed as Mr Milei, complete with wig, at the book launch - Luciano Torres/Anadolu

Critics of Mr Milei, including opposition politicians, attacked the musical stunt as cavalier at a time when Argentinians are struggling under his tight spending controls.

They highlighted poverty levels rising to nearly 60 per cent during Mr Milei’s administration, with the halt of almost all public spending on construction leading to large job losses.

In contrast, supporters at the venue welcomed their leader’s energy and maverick approach to politics.

“This connection he has with people, I’ve never seen anything like it,”  Liliana Varela, a 72-year-old attendee, told Associated Press. “He is creating a disruption at the very moment that we need it.”

Such “disruption” has also seen Argentina become involved in a diplomatic crisis with Spain, a historic ally and major trading partner.

A stadium filled with people
Ten thousand people attended the free concert - Luciano Torres/Anadolu

The row follows Mr Milei’s criticism of socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and a claim of corruption involving his wife. The claim is strongly denied.

When members of the crowd screamed vulgar insults about Sánchez on Wednesday, Mr Milei appeared to respond with a smirk.

“Milei doesn’t have to answer to Sanchez,”  another attendee, Hernan Sanchez, 62, told Associated Press. “He is defending his beliefs.”