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Argentine Political Outlook (Feb-26-18) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Feb-26-18 - by Rosendo Fraga

1. The demonstration called by Moyano has left clear advantages for the government in the political-electoral sphere, but some doubts in matters of governance. Since the beginning of the year, Cristina Kirchner has been secluded in Santa Cruz. The consequence was that Macri was left without an enemy against who to "polarize". With Moyano in the center of the scene, now he has someone to confront again. Despite his fall in the polls, Macri has a much better image than that of the truck driver unionist. If society chooses between the two, the latter wins. In addition, as a "tough" opposition is consolidated, the division with the "pro-dialogue" faction is articulated around the governors. If the ruling party managed that this division was projected to 2019 at the political-electoral level, it would have an advantage. But at the same time, the consolidation of the "hard" opposition generates a front with the capacity to confront on the streets. The experience of December 18 is clear: no more than 1,500 leftist activists, throwing 40 tons of stones, prevented the labor reform, led to the suspension of ordinary sessions of Congress and neutralized the "permanent reformism" that was the political strategy of the government for 2018. The most important spokesman of this "hard" opposition is lawyer Raúl Zaffaroni, who after the dismissal of the complaint against him by the Argentine justice and the ratification in his duties by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH), said: "I fear that everything bursts out like in 2001 ".

2. The day after the demonstration called by Moyano, Macri opened the door to the debate on abortion. While the claim for gender equality and against femicide, has also promoted initiatives in favor of decriminalization, neither those nor an alleged conflict with the Pope has led the President to make this decision. The reason was political: this debate should help "pass the autumn", that is to say, get to the World Cup in June. In particular, the political decision seeks to put the increase in inflation, the difficulties of the collective bargaining agreements and the allegations of corruption that begin to affect the government, in a back seat. This is a cross-sector issue that divides the parties. Among Cambiemos, Peronism and Kirchnerism some are in favor and other against. Macri and most of his ministers - like Carrió - have taken a stand against decriminalization. In Peronism the same position also seems to prevail. Kirchnerism is curiously divided: Cristina does not support it, but her son, Máximo, does. The organizations that demand decriminalization ask that matter be discussed in the Lower House on March 8, coinciding with the strike and march that they will carry out on the occasion of women's day. It has already been decided that the subject be discussed later. The position for decriminalization would be supported by the majority in the Lower House and even more at the Senate. The Episcopate agreed with the government to call a dialogue and a bishop who is usually spokesman to the Pope (Fernandez) defended the position against abortion.

3. Macri's opening speech of the regular sessions of the Congress will outline a political strategy for 2018, as did those of 2016 and 2017. In the first, he raised his three priority objectives: national unity, zero poverty and fight against drug trafficking. In the second, on the other hand, he hinted at the polarization that dominated the election campaign of the legislative election. Now, he will have an intermediate position: from power, he will call on people to support his proposal of "cultural change" and progress and at the same time, he will call to find consensus. His address will have a legislative bias - the previous two did not have it - proposing several laws. He will insist with the labor reform, although the government knows that it is very difficult, even negotiating with the pro-dialogue unions opposed to Moyano. He will ask for the approval of the three bills which were the emergency decree to "de-bureaucratize and expedite the state" that the Congress was not going to validate. Several initiatives aimed at improving public security will be presented: increase of penalties, debate on the age of criminal responsibility and need to reform the Criminal Code. But the so-called “integrity” laws will represent a central chapter. He will also raise the need for a political party funding law –which was part of the failed political reform of last year-, one law on “public ethics” –the priority-, and the penalties for corruption crimes would be raised on criminal law matters.


4. This happens when various corruption allegations begin to affect the ruling party. This has a systemic explanation: in the third year of government -when public opinion perceives the problems as belonging to the current Administration and no longer to the previous one- society becomes less tolerant of the allegations that affect the government and at the same time the governments usually minimize the initial priority they showed in a matter in their behavior. At the beginning of the week, an anti-K Prosecutor (Moldes) did not oppose that the case against Macri’s brothers over the Panama Papers moves to the court in criminal-economic matters; another anti-K prosecutor (Taiano) asked to investigate the Macri group for the purchase of wind farms; a third prosecutor (Rivolo) demanded that AFIP lifts the fiscal secrecy of the Minister of Finance (Caputo) and give information about his "off-shore" activities; the government decided to separate the Assistant Secretary General from the Presidency (Díaz Guilligan) for undisclosed deposits in Andorra and Judge Bonadio investigates the case. At the beginning of last week, the K congress members asked for the list of officials with off-shore investments and three days later, the Minister of Finance is asked about his investments abroad through this modality. The annual report of Transparency International, accounts that last year Argentina only improved 3 positions in the Ranking, today sharing place 85 with Kuwait, Kosovo, Solomon Islands and Benin and is ranked 16 among 31 countries in Latin America. The government's response is aimed at accelerating a large public trial against Cristina Kirchner for corruption, showing that although some of her officials may have incurred in irregularities, they are much smaller than those of Kirchnerism. The fact that a senator who responds to Pichetto presides over the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the upper house, implies that the risk of Cristina's detention order reaching the premises is very low. This happens when surveys show that the percentage of those who believe that the economy will improve in the future has fallen.

5. To conclude:

a) Moyano’s demonstration favors the government from the political and electoral viewpoint, but can also raise some doubts on the issue of governance.

b) The debate on abortion is useful for the ruling coalition to put the increase in inflation and fares, the collective bargaining agreement and the corruption allegations in a back seat.

c) In the March 1 address, Macri will call on people to join a “cultural change” and consensus, giving priority to the “integrity” laws (public ethics, party funding, etc.).

d) In view of the allegations that begin to affect government, the latter will respond by speeding up a “mega-trial” against Cristina for corruption, which will be public.

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