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Argentine Political Outlook (Jan-04-16) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Jan-04-16 - by Rosendo Fraga

1. Achieving the parliamentary coalition that allows for governance is the most important challenge Macri faces in 2016 in the political arena. Without a Cambiemos majority in any of the two Houses of the National Congress and without using the Cabinet to make a coalition Government that can negotiate parliamentary majorities, creating them implies agreeing on the distribution of internal power within Congress and, in a federal system, agreeing with Governors. At the end of 2015, Macri managed to keep under his control the line of succession, as a PRO legislator (Pinedo) was elected as Provisional President of the Senate and another (Monzo) as the head of the Lower House. However, he failed to define the control of the Bicameral Commission that validates the decrees of necessity and urgency, the Presidency of the Commissions of agreements of the Senate, of impeachment in the Lower House and those of Budget and Finance and Constitutional Affairs of both houses, which are the most important. In addition, the FPV blocks in the House and the Senate kept their unity. The model of parliamentary coalition is tested by the Governor of Buenos Aires (Vidal). There, Cambiemos has only one-third of the provincial Senate and more than one quarter of the Lower House, but reached an agreement with Massa that allowed it to achieve majority in the two Houses and the division of the Senators of the FPV in two blocs, the mayors in at least three and dissidences among congress members. But that was not enough to achieve the two-thirds to expand borrowing.

2. Containing social tensions is the second challenge in a year when the economy will have to be "disclosed" Moyano publicly says. Macri seems willing to set in motion a "socio-economic agreement" with entrepreneurs and unions that includes the conflicts especially in the first months of the year, in which the transfer of the devaluation to prices is a problem to solve. The new President has launched an effective negotiation with the Peronist trade-unionism, as man from it was given the control of the Superintendence of health services (SSS), the body which was created by Cristina and removed the control of the social-welfare funds from unions. The return of withheld funds has already begun and the Peronist trade-unionism, which has reunited temporarily, seems willing to join the Government, in the first months although the most pro-K sector led by Calo maintains tougher positions. But at the same time the social conflict remains, outside the unions but more difficult to manage. Realistically, in the last days of 2015 Macri granted a bonus of 400 pesos to those who get social allowances, which contained conflicts at the end of the year and prevented lootings in New Year's Eve, negotiating this with the pro-K pickets. The control of social protests is a major challenge for the Government of Cambiemos, which tries to do it with a "Protocol" that must be agreed upon with judges and Governors. Kirchnerism and the left appear willing to challenge the Government on the streets and will do so in 2016.

3. The issue of security, composed by drug trafficking, organized crime, growing insecurity and the lack of an effective State to combat them, is the third central political challenge. In the early days of government, Macri launched signs and concrete measures towards politics ("art of agreement"), the economy (removal of dollar ban), social field (as mentioned in the previous point) and internationally (claims to Venezuela against political prisoners). But he had not done the same with the issue of security, which is people's leading demand in the polls for several years. The run-away of three inmates convicted to life imprisonment for murders linked to drug trafficking put the subject in the center of the scene, before the Government could deal with it. The outgoing administration leaves a sharp increase in drug trafficking, drug abuse and even in the production of narcotic drugs in the country. While it is true that it is not a subject matter easy to solve in any country in the world, long-term systematic policies should be put in place, including repression, prevention and an effective coordination with the Judiciary. It is likely that the Government is obliged during the year to reorganize the security area, which today appears as its most serious vulnerability.

4. Meanwhile the role of Peronism will be decisive for the formation of the opposition. The FPV retains 12 out of 24 provincial governments, 42 of 72 senators and 110 of 257 congress members. Kirchnerism, perceiving that time plays against it, launched the process to renew the authorities of PJ, today headed by former Governor Fellner. In February the provinces will present their list of congress members before the electoral court and Congress is expected to meet in April to choose the new authorities. Seeking to represent anti-K Peronism, the Governor of Salta first asked that the election be held by direct vote, which he will hardly get; then he said that Cristina had to compete for the Presidency of the party and not support a candidate of her own. The former Mayor of La Matanza and current President of the Buenos Aires PJ (Espinoza) has already proposed that Scioli be the next president of the party. Although new authorities of the PJ are elected, it is unlikely that this implies the emergence of a new leadership, which will emerge with the results of the legislative elections in 2017, as happened in 1985, 2001 and 2005. Meanwhile, Kirchnerism will remain a part of Peronism and Cristina will have power, but not all. Massa and De la Sota will be an anti-K bloc and Governors will strike a balance according to their specific needs.

5. To conclude:

a) Macri's first political challenge in 2016 is to build a parliamentary coalition for governance, after the style of Vidal in the province of Buenos Aires.

b) Containing social conflicts in a scenario of economic "disclosure" is the second challenge, as trade unions rather than social movements seem easier to control.

c) The fight against drug-trafficking and insecurity is a central point, given its deterioration in the past years, its priority for the people and the problems affecting Buenos Aires.

d) Peronism is unlikely to give a unified leadership and this may allow the new ruling coalition to negotiate with a sector of it, although new authorities will be elected.

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