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Inicio arrow Análisis arrow Argentine Political Outlook (Feb-05-18)

Argentine Political Outlook (Feb-05-18) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Feb-05-18 - by Rosendo Fraga

1. Polls from both the ruling party and the opposition reveal that the government image continued to drop at least until late January, reason why the administration is attempting to regain the initiative. According to the government itself, the convergence in the pension reform, the rise in rates and the Triaca case are the cause for the mentioned December-January drop. The first action aims at regaining the value of “public ethics” for the ruling party. The return of the bonus paid by the RSA to the Minister of Agro-industry (Etchevere) and the provision under which direct relatives of Cabinet members should resign to their offices as public servants are the most relevant actions. But the austerity image also plays a role; in line with this, hierarchical positions in the Executive go down by thousands (25%) and the salaries of those earning more than 150,000 pesos remain frozen (324). The issue with these measures is that the public opinion has become aware of a series of unknown situations. The support offered by President Macri in a personal interview to the policeman who killed the attacker of an American tourist in La Boca and was later prosecuted and seized by a judge advocating constitutional guarantees, was the other action with an uncertain outcome, after the information incriminating the policeman was unleashed. But the key issue is that, entering the third year of administration, society becomes more critical and believes that problems are not just inherited and have now become part of the ruling party.

2. The main political strategy of the government is to make it to June with no major conflicts, until the start of the World Cup, but politics get in the way. This strategy forces the government to avoid conflicts during the first semester of the year. The decision to dodge Congress and ruling by decree has turned complicated. On February 6, the Commission for Parliamentary Legal Proceedings, under Cambiemos, would approve the decree that "de-bureaucratises and speeds up" the operation of the State, which repeals 19 laws and amends 140. In order to annul it, the opposition must obtain a simple majority of the members present in both Houses, which may occur. All sectors in the PJ and even Carrió state that this decree is unconstitutional and urge for it to turn into one or several bills. The UCR has publicly expressed that there is no majority to ratify such decree and also claims for it to become a bill. But, for the government, this implies going back to Congress, which it intended to dodge, and negotiating with the “dialogue-prone” sectors of the Peronism. On Thursday, February 8, the first national meeting of PJ leaders will be held, in order to discuss unity. It is important to remember that a similar meeting took place two weeks ago, in the provincial sphere.

3. But the union field is where tension is felt stronger, with the Macri-Moyano confrontation and its alternatives. The government still boosts legal actions against corrupt union leaders and, hence, fosters them against Moyano. The chances of being arrested, both him and several of his family members, arouses tension to its maximum level. The union leader’s response was a call for protest on February 22, with the participation of the CGT, except for the so-called “the fat” and “the independent” sectors, which used to keep a dialogue with Cristina and now do so with Macri. The two combative unions (pro-K and anti-K CTAs) have also joined the protest. Moderate social movements will define on February 6 whether they will participate or not in the march. Moyano collaborators are working to gain adhesion of entities from regional economies, consumer and tenant associations. Chief of Cabinet, Peña, first argued that the government rejected Moyano’s “pressure” and then stated that the union leader was wrong by trying to constrain legal measures with street protests. The point is that last week, around 50 human rights advocates, responding to Hebe Bonafini, prevented legal actions expected to be taken in her Foundation. It is likely that Macri be willing to negotiate, but that would imply a political cost, given the lawsuits against Moyano, who is also probably willing to talk, but halting the protest to save his personal situation would leave them in an awkward position before his allies and advocates. Likewise, collective bargaining agreements are yet another battlefield between the government and the unions.

4. The visit of the US Secretary of State called the attention to foreign affairs. Prior to his visit to Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Colombia and Jamaica, Rex Tillerson warned the region about the “imperial” attitudes adopted by China and Russia in the region. Four days before his arrival, Macri welcomed the Chinese Minister of Finance, who stated his country’s interest in building infrastructure works to connect Argentina and Chile. The visit of the American official showed general coincidences but different nuances. His decision to first visit INVAP –the Rio Negro state-owned company that manufactures and exports nuclear reactors, satellites, radars, etc.-, was not welcomed by the Argentine government, neither by the Foreign Affairs Minister who walked him through the visit. (Macri has cancelled an agreement with INVAP to produce six satellites with Italy and another one to produce radars in order to cover the North border). As for Venezuela, prior to starting the visit, Tillerson said that the situation in that country could change by means of a military or civilian insurrection. Macri highlighted that Argentina only accepted a democratic decision to solve this conflict. The American idea is that if the region emulates it, the deployment of a multinational peace corps might be necessary. The possibility of an oil embargo could trigger the crisis of the Chavez regime. A favourable gesture from the Trump Administration towards Argentina was that the Secretary of Commerce (Ross) conveyed to the Argentine Ambassador in Washington the possibility to review some of the commercial restrictions claimed for by Argentina.

5. To conclude:

a) The government’s image dropped in December and January and the government is trying to improve it, by recovering the value of public ethics and prioritising citizens’ security.

b) The government wants to make it to June, to create an effect of relaxation with the World Cup, but the conflict generated by the decree to “de-bureaucratise and speed up” operations in the State, proves that it will not be an easy task.

c) The conflict between Macri and Moyano scales up, the negotiation between them falls apart and, harassed by lawsuits, the latter reacts with a march to be held on February 22.

d) The visit of the US Secretary of State reveals the good relation between Washington and Buenos Aires, and the fact that the bilateral relation between Obama and Trump continues, though with different nuances.

 
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