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Inicio arrow Análisis arrow Argentine Political Outlook (Feb-07-17)

Argentine Political Outlook (Feb-07-17) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Feb-07-17 - by Rosendo Fraga

1. The Governor of the province of Buenos Aires (Vidal) has been the first person in the ruling party to publicly warn about the possibility of losing the half term election. She did so while attempting to de-emphasise the result, arguing that the governance of the second part of the term will not be at stake if they lose. This was stated days before Clarín newspaper published during the weekend a Management&Fit survey that revealed a drop in the President's reputation, and when the ruling party still cannot find a good candidate to lead the national senators' list, against the Peronism and the Massa-Stolbizer alliance, which hold best known figures. It seems like a sensible statement in a time when it is not really clear whether the economy will reactivate in 2017, the extent of unity or division of the Buenos Aires Peronism, and when there are no certainties on whether the population will reach the election day perceiving some improvement in public security. In the provincial setting, she is determined to recruit dissidents from the Peronism, for whom she has already saved several vacancies in her administration as a capturing tool. Currently, the Governor faces the problem with teachers who do not accept the 18% salary rise, with a quarterly adjustment, which has already been agreed upon by a sector of state workers in the province.

2. But, it is a strategy from the Governor, not shared by the Pink House, to call to vote for the figure of the President in the election. The President is willing to have a decisive role in the campaign as from this month, still making himself present in various parts of the interior of the country, attempting to be part in new launches. With a somewhat excessive realism, Macri stated that it will take "twenty years" to put an end to poverty, something quite different from the ambitious goal of achieving "zero poverty" in his first term of administration. While he still insists on employment generation, he is aware that his campaign cannot spin around social improvement -that is uncertain and even arguable in 2017-, but rather around public work, where he will try to bet on being the President who has done the most in less than two years, since democracy was restored. The strategy of focusing the election on the presidential figure matches the attempt to have his cousin, Jorge Macri, run as the first candidate to senator for Buenos Aires. Hence, the Macri surname will spearhead the list for Buenos Aires and, if he wins, the President will have played a role in that triumph. It is very likely that during the next few weeks this strategy is imposed on the Governor, who will obtain this year a special contribution from the national government of 25 billion pesos for the province, something that caused protests in the opposing provinces and new claims in others. In terms of the strategy to focus the election on Macri, it seems more functional to have Cristina as a competitor than not having her at all. She has -again- been summoned by judge Bonadio to examination on March 7 in "Los Sauces" case, where she is more at stake.

3. The electoral strategy already exerts its influence in the government administration from the first quarter. The original idea was to focus adjustments during the first quarter of the year and subordinate the administration to the campaign during the second and third quarters. The recent increase in rates was decided in line with that strategy, postponing the next rise for after the elections. But the Minister of the Treasury (Dujovne) has been told not to insist with his initiatives on reducing labour taxes and legalising the employment status of workers; he argues that the government has no ceiling for collective bargaining negotiations. On his part, the President decided to postpone for October the adjustments of expenses planned through the administrative reform, and chose to have a training and proficiency regime for the state personnel, something that will surely be rejected by the unions. The CGT's decision to hold a march against the non-adherence to the agreement signed in November to avoid layoffs until March - the unions account for almost 6000 in the industrial sector since then - on March 7, the same day Cristina was summoned to examination -leaving a general strike for the end of next month undated- seems more of a pressure to negotiate rather than a no-return confrontation.  It was proven so by Moyano's delegate in the triumvirate run today by the labour union (Schmid) when stating that no one should confuse "caution with resignation" in the attitude taken by the unionism.

4. Foreign policy will be at the forefront for Macri during this month, starting with his visit to Brazil. Last week's lack of access to Trump's team by Argentine Vice-President Michetti - she could only get a picture with Vice-President Pence- and the suspension of the facilitation for Argentine citizens to obtain the visa, granted by the Obama administration during his last days, strongly confirm that the alleged start of the Argentine foreign policy has concluded. Within this framework, the visit to Brazil on February 7 is significant. A transcendental bilateral declaration will be signed and it shall be the roadmap for a strategy to consolidate and develop this bilateral relation, which is a priority for Argentina. Five days later, in Chile, with the purpose of celebrating the Bicentennial of the Battle of Chacabuco, the presidents from Argentina and Chile will meet and foster the negotiation for a bilateral free trade agreement, which was agreed upon in December. Macri will be visiting Spain on March 22 in order to boost the bilateral relation and the EU's relation alongside. In the next few months, Macri will visit China and Japan to consolidate these relations. Now, Argentina is focusing its foreign policy on South America, Europe and Asia, since its attempts with the US are somewhat frustrated. Macri's emergency decree that sets more stringent migration controls and allows prompt deportation of foreigners, has generated claims in some countries of the region, in particular in Bolivia and Paraguay, the two countries with the greatest amount of migrants in Argentina. Despite foreign policy, as a consequence of the corruption investigation in Brazil, best known as "Lava Jato", the head of AFI, Arribas, has been experiencing some complications for weeks, while still refuting many of the charges made against him.

5. To conclude:

a) Vidal has been the first relevant figure in government to warn about the possibility that Cambiemos may not win the election, stating that it will not set governance in crisis.

b) But Macri will impose another strategy, insisting on the need to win in order to consolidate his project and playing an important role in it, seeking focus on himself.

c) The electoral strategy already exerts an influence in the administration from the first quarter, and the Minister of the Treasury has postponed his initial momentum on labour, tax and expense reduction.

d) Argentina's visit to Brazil paves the way for a foreign policy whose priority used to be the relation with the US, but that now needs to seek further in the region, in Europe and in Asia.

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