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Argentine Political Outlook (Feb-14-18) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Feb-14-18 - by Rosendo Fraga
  1. The ruling party is trying to reorganize its political strategy and resume its initiative by means of the “retreat” of ministers and officials at Chapadmalal on February, 15-16. The reform on the retirement system passed by the Congress by late December caused a significant impact on the government’s public image, an average 10-point fall as for the surveys published. Labour Minister Triaca’s incident, made the government resume its initiative through a series of measures in order to improve transparency and increase austerity. But new incidents, such as those affecting some members of the Cabinet (Triaca, Etchevere, Caputo) along with the disappointment generated by the fact that only twelve direct relatives of ministers have left the Executive branch prevented these actions from being successful. In early February, the government tried to recover the support of public opinion by implementing an “iron fist” policy in terms of security with the President meeting a local police officer (Chocobar) who killed a criminal that had tried, in turn, to kill an American tourist. This second attempt to resume the initiative has not been successful either according to the surveys. The government´s clash with union leader Hugo Moyano is being used to make society become polarized in favour of the government. However, Macri’s public image despite its fall is much better than that of the truck drivers’ union leader. There are concerns that increasing social unrest due to inflation growth may be used against the government.

  1. Social conflict is rising and this week will witness some demonstrations ahead Moyano’s call for 21 February. On 15 February, the largest state union (Ate) is calling for a nation-wide strike, the same day Buenos Aires’ teachers are holding their collective bargaining meeting. Moderate social movements joining Moyano’s march (CTEP, CCC and Barrios en Pie) have organized 1000 soup lines across the country. On Monday 19, the sugar union of the provinces of Salta and Jujuy are marching, and banks are going on a strike as well. The final event is the 21 February march where Moyano´s CGT followers, the above mentioned social movements, Kirchnerist organizations and trozkista left-wing parties such as the PO are taking part. The latter is the most dangerous player in this march due to its violent bias as shown in the events of 14 and 18 December in front of the Congress. In order to prevent violent acts, Pablo Moyano has been entrusted with the security of the event. Those CGT sectors following Barrionuevo and the “Gordos e Independientes” have remained apart from the march. Unionism is again divided, last year three different union main offices existed. What is peculiar this time is the fact that those opposing Cristina are opposing Macri (Moyano) and those who supported her are supporting Macri at present. The Department of Labour is monitoring the 80 unions under Moyano’s command and it has suspended their cash flow for social health care. The monitoring of those unions that have not joined the march has been suspended and more cash flow is being allocated to their social health care plans.

  1. Peronism is giving signs of support towards unity. Though, until next year’s open primaries this will not be clear. The most significant event has been the convergence of Peronism in its entirety (governors, Massa´s followers and kirchnerists) to reject Macri’s emergency decree with the aim of easing the State´s action and “debureaucratize”, before the two Houses. Last week the Committee of Parliamentarian Proceedings gave its affirmative opinion so that this decree, abolishing 19 laws and amending 140, could be sent to the Congress for its approval. But knowing it will not be approved, the ruling party accepted the demands of the opposition –supported by the UCR party and Carrió- converting it into three bills whose approval is uncertain. At the building janitors´ union –in line with Kichnerism- a meeting was held, where Santamaría, Rossi and Filmus representing Kirchnerism, Arroyo and Solá representing Massa and Fernández (Chino) and Fernández (Alberto) representing Randazzo have attended. It was a step towards unity that will be repeated in the province of Mendoza during the following weeks. But the governors were not present – except for Rodríguez Saa- neither Massa nor Randazzo. Cristina is still the main hurdle for the unity of Peronism that, if possible, entails running against her in the following PASO so that only one candidate remains for the October´s presidential election.

  1. But the most critical political problem for the ruling party is the idea of Macri ending his term of office earlier getting rooted in society. Former Supreme Court member Eugenio Zaffaroni, in line with Kirchenerism and hardline human rights organizations, keeps wishing Macri did not end his term of office by saying: “If the ruling party leaves the government before time, the country´s debt will be lower, one year before is nothing”. The government has decided to ask for his removal from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). But unexpectedly the Wall Street Journal, the most influencing newspaper in the world, that has strongly supported Macri in terms of businesses, made statements such as “there is no certainty that he may end his term of office”. The newspaper explains that this uncertainty is based on the fact that Macri has underestimated the problems inherited from Kirchnerism and could not curb inflation. Adding that “Peronists expect that he ends his presidency earlier. They might be right”. All of if transpired after a week were global market volatility made Argentina obtained the highest country risk rate of the whole region having perceived the rise of such social conflict.

  2. To conclude:

  1. After the fall of the government’s public image caused by the reform on the retirement system and upon failure to overcome it by means of austerity and iron fist, Macri is trying to recover the initiative by making society become polarized through Moyano’s attitude.

  1. The march called for 21 February is just the beginning of what is coming this year with a nation-wide strike by the largest state union and the social movement demonstration.

  1. Peronism gave signals of unity either in Congress and in the political arena but only after the 2018 primary elections there will be certainty about it, Cristina being the main hurdle in the way.

  1. The government must prevent the idea that Macri will not end his term of office from getting rooted in society, such an idea having emerged from both Kirchnerism (Zaffaroni) and the Wall Street Journal.

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