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Argentine Political Outlook (Mar-20-18) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Mar-20-18 - by Rosendo Fraga

1. The fifth anniversary of Bergoglio’s appointment as pope showed his power of call in the political and trade union sphere, generating the first signs to "close the crack". The same March 13, on the anniversary of such appointment, a public statement signed by leaders of all political currents, from all social sectors and social movements, was known, recognizing the figure of the Pope and his role in the global and national level for dialogue, consensus and mercy. The most relevant political fact was that it was signed by leading figures of the PRO: Vidal, Michetti, Stanley, Torello and Esteban Bullrich. Relevant members of Kirchnerism (Zaffaroni, De Pedro, Magario, Taiana and Mendoza), Peronismo Renovador (Massa y Solá), Peronism of Buenos Aires (Menéndez) and the left (Solanas and Donda) followed suit. It was signed by Daer from “pro-dialogue” Peronism and by several relevant leaders (Pablo Moyano, Palazzo and Schmid) from “opposition” Peronism. The leaders of the two sectors of the CTA (Yasky and Michelli) signed the combative unionism. So did leaders of social movements (Grabois, Alderete and Pérsico). Macri joined with an individual statement, praising the "spiritual and moral" testimony given by the Pope during his five years of pontificate. In the following days, many political, union and social leaders joined. The reality is that the Pope attracted the first concrete expression to overcome the so-called "crack" in his five years since he was elected, half during the government of Cristina and the other under the Macri administration. On Saturday 18, the Pope in a handwritten note thanked this statement, made a conciliatory call, apologized if some of his gestures had bothered someone and called to "defend life."

2. But the issue of abortion and other attitudes show that the relationship between the government and the Church remains tense. The day after the expression of recognition of the Pope by political and union leaders, the Chief of Cabinet (Peña) who did not sign the statement, when appearing before the Lower House and answering one of the 1,300 questions raised in writing, said that the state spends 130 million pesos in the salaries of the bishops, some of which reach 46,000 pesos. Beyond the fact that the Constitution establishes that the Argentine state "supports" the Catholic religion, the Church affirms that only 7% of its funds come from the state. Government spokesmen on Saturday 17 interpreted the sincere and conciliatory content of the Pope when thanking the declaration of support, was a way to neutralize the cost of not visiting the country. This week, the plenary of committees in the Lower House, chaired by a member of the PRO, begins to discuss the submitted bills on abortion. So far, in the Lower House, decriminalization is not easy to come, although most polls give it a majority, having 112 members who have expressed against it, 101 in favor and 44 have not yet defined. It is more unlikely to get approval at the Senate. Meanwhile the shantytown priests pronounced themselves against the decriminalization of abortion and the sectors that accompany this position will carry out a demonstration in the City of Buenos Aires on Sunday, March 25.

3. Meanwhile, Peronism shows its division, but also the vocation of finding unity. By mid-last week, the first meeting in a long time took place between the two leaders who competed with Cristina last year in the province of Buenos Aires: Massa and Randazzo. Apparently, they agreed to move towards unity, but avoiding a leading role of Cristina. On Friday 16, the opposition Peronism Summit took place in San Luis, with Alberto Rodríguez Saa as host - now confronted with his brother Adolfo – and Moyano and several members of Kirchnerism attended it. Under the slogan "Hay 2019" a call to Peronism without any exclusion was agreed. The next day, the Buenos Aires PJ meeting was held in Hurlingham. All sectors were present, including Massa and Randazzo’s mayors and Kirchnerist and anti-Kirchnerist currents. They agreed to seek the return of all dissidents to the Party and coordinate actions with the governors. These in turn, with the coordination of Senator Pichetto, will hold their first meeting in the first week of April in Gualeguaychú. The issue is to get all sectors of the PJ accept to compete within the same space in the open primaries, so that there is only one candidate and thus achieve electoral unity, something that does not seem easy. That the inflation of the first two months was 9.6% and that this will complicate the negotiation of the bargaining agreement is seen as an opportunity by the different sectors of Peronism.

4. Tensions exist within the government over legal cases, the Minister of Finance (Caputo) will appear before the Congress and the economic-financial chapter of the G20 gathers in Buenos Aires. Elisa Carrió has reiterated her complaint against the Minister of Justice (Garavano) over the AMIA case and has questioned the appointment of the new head of the AFIP (Cuccioli), linking it with the ruling that set Cristóbal López free. A Court ruling annulled the drawing of three cases that affected Cristina and Báez, that had been assigned to a court aligned with the government. At the same time, a complaint was filed against the Court, because it has not carried out the applicable process for the appointment of the court member in charge of wiretapping (Irurzun). The Judiciary becomes a complex setting for the government, when the Minister of Finance (Caputo) will appear before Congress to explain his offshore companies. The opposition believes that it will be hard for him to succeed and seems willing to insist on the charges against him. Peña's claim that "offshore accounts are legal and bags full of money are not," does not seem the most prudent response from a political point of view. This week, 29 finance ministers and 20 central bank presidents of the G20 meet in Buenos Aires, in addition to the head of the IMF (Lagarde) who praised Macri, when some officials say it would be cheaper to get funds from the international organization and not private banking.

5. To conclude:

  1. The statement of recognition for the Pope signed by relevant members of government and the opposition has been the first gesture in five years that overcomes the “crack”.

  1. But the debate on abortion and Peña’s statements about the bishops’ salaries show underlying tensions in the relationship between the ruling coalition and the Catholic Church.

  1. In the past days, peronism showed its division but also its vocation for unity, which won’t be easy to realize.

  1. Now, the Judiciary is a complex setting for government and the Minister of Finance will appear before Congress in times when Buenos Aires sets the stage for the gathering of the G20 economic-financial representatives.

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