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Campaigning last year as a libertarian outsider, Javier Milei electrified rallies with his vows to destroy Argentina’s corrupt political elite. But the eccentric economist-turned-president now faces accusations of hypocrisy over his Supreme Court nomination.

What makes his choice of Ariel Lijo, 55, so extraordinary is not just the judge’s lack of appellate experience or scant scholarly publications, but that he has been accused of conspiracy, money laundering and illicit enrichment, and has come under scrutiny for more ethics violations than almost any other judge in his court’s history.

“This is a massive regression, an effort to undermine the judiciary and the fight against corruption,” said Juan Pappier, deputy director of the Americas at Human Rights Watch. “This is Milei’s biggest contradiction.”

The backlash to Lijo’s May 28 nomination was swift. Protestors rallied outside the Supreme Court. Legal watchdogs, business groups and newspapers castigated Milei for elevating an exemplar of the class that he had vowed to disrupt.

But Lijo has allies across the political spectrum, and Milei predicts an easy confirmation, even though the president’s political isolation has frustrated his efforts to get a single bill passed in six months. After an explosion of violent protests, Milei’s radical state overhaul, a 232-article bill that grants the president enlarged powers over the economy, squeaked through the Senate last week.

“Lijo is special in that he can get the votes,” said Alberto Garay, president of the Buenos Aires Bar Association. “It’s not about getting respected jurists in the court, it’s about friends.”

An aide to Lijo told The Associated Press that the judge would not speak to reporters until after his Senate confirmation hearing, expected in the coming weeks.

As soon as he took office, Milei — who raffled his monthly salary as a lawmaker — launched what he labeled a shock economic adjustment to address Argentina’s failing finances, but its success hangs on a wave of court challenges.

Without allies in Congress, the president relied on a controversial emergency decree to deregulate the labor market. Judges suspended major sections of the measure after unions complained it was unconstitutional. Milei argues that as annual inflation nears 300%, Argentina’s economic crisis constitutes an emergency that justifies the sweeping decree under Argentina’s constitution. Lawyers disagree.

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