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Argentine Political Outlook (Apr-03-18) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Apr-04-18 - by Rosendo Fraga

1. Nineteen months to go before the presidential election (October 2019) and fourteen months away from the definition of alliances and candidacies (May 2019), Argentina is going through the longest electoral campaign in its history. The President has presented the poverty decline as an important achievement, which is indeed. But this fall, just as that registered in the jobless rate, corresponds to the second half of last year, when the ruling party clearly won the legislative election. The question is whether this will remain the same in the coming months, when the basic food basket measured by INDEC increased by 5.1% in the first two months of the year and wholesale prices in the same period have increased by a similar percentage. A sector of the government promotes a reform of the agency to change the methodology to measure inflation, which would be an error, since it would affect the credibility of the official statistics that has begun to be rebuilt. The political-electoral strategy has for the second quarter of the year, the slogan "autumn should pass" to reach the World Cup that begins that month. In the strategy of Cambiemos, abortion plays a relevant role to dominate the political agenda in the quarter that has begun. After two months of consultations, the bills will only be addressed by Congress in June. In fact, governance has taken a back seat. In the last two months –February, when the extraordinary sessions of the Congress were convened and March, the first month of the ordinary sessions- no bill was approved. The reform of the capital markets law that had half approval in the Lower House was approved with amendments by the Senate, so it returns to the original House. The three bills where the emergency decree was transformed to de-bureaucratize the state, have only half approval in the Lower house and the labor reform has not yet begun to be addressed.

2. For the ruling party, the conflict with the Judiciary is on the spotlight, as a change of attitude from judges is perceived. In the last week, more former kirchnerist civil servants were released from prison, like the former number two of De Vido (Baratta) and one of those accused in the case of the Memorandum with Iran (Khalil). The Council of Magistrates investigates both the judges who released Cristóbal López, as well as the two judges who freed Zannini and D Elía. Without too many possibilities to remove judges and federal prosecutors of first instance, the Executive will try to fill open vacancies in the court of cassation in the Federal Courts of Appeals. But it is not clear how this will be achieved it, since to appoint a judge, in addition to the list of candidates proposed by the Council of Magistrates, two thirds of the present senators must vote for it. In addition, the Court has questioned the designation of judges from other jurisdictions, without the corresponding agreement of the Senate. So far this year none has been appointed; all political ambassadors were appointed by decree without sending the candidate lists to the Upper House and the promotions of senior officers of the Armed Forces have not yet reached it either. Meanwhile the Court tries to strike a balance: it agrees reforms with the Executive branch to accelerate the cases of corruption and at the same time accuses the Federal Information Agency (AFI) of having leaked the wiretaps of Cristina with Parrilli that were in the hands of Judge Lijo.

3. For its part, Peronism continues to move towards unity, but in a disordered and even contradictory way. On April 6 Gualeguaychú plays host to the meeting of "Federal Peronism" convened by Senator Pichetto. The meeting has lost entity, as the governors will not attend, limiting the encounter to the national legislators of this political movement. Two governors who opened the ordinary sessions on April 1 (Urtubey and Rodríguez Sáa), advanced from different positions towards their candidacies in the respective opening speeches. This led the Governor of Córdoba (Schiaretti) to ask the governors to "not go ahead with the candidacies." The governor of Chaco (Peppo) - whose province President Macri will visit this week to relaunch the "Plan Belgrano" - said that corruption cases made it more difficult for the PJ to find leaders and candidates. The government sees Cristina as an instrument to divide the PJ, but she is in the background, while defining the unification of the cases in court, that are in the hands of the TOF4 and TOF6 (Federal oral courts). One of the most important leaders of La Campora (Larroque) denied the candidacy of Maximo, while the President of the K block in the Lower House (Rossi) has begun his bid to become the presidential candidate of Kirchnerism that competes in the open primaries with Peronism. Peña will meet this week with senators of the PJ but without Cristina, and on April 4 the Minister of Finance (Caputo) attends Congress to answer about the accusation of not having offshore companies declared.

4. A CGT that is closer to the government is taking shape, but labor conflicts increase. The emerging workers confederation will leave out Moyano and Barrionuevo, will have a more pro-dialogue activity with the government and on April 5 there will be a meeting to convene the Executive Council of the CGT, which in turn would convene its Assembly, where transport unions will have a key role. The wage agreements are closing on a formal 15%, but with compensations for 2017 that lead to 20% or more and commitments for revision for the second half of the year, according to how inflation will evolve. On April 4, the governor of the province of Buenos Aires (Vidal) will hold the last meeting with the Buenos Aires teachers' unions to try to avoid the strike called for the next day, supported by state workers of the province. There are still 4 jurisdictions that keep the teaching conflict open, and two of them are the City and the Province of Buenos Aires, with which the problem reaches more than half of the country in terms of the total number of public school students. In the City of Buenos Aires, the front of teachers, state, judicial, subway workers and collectors, will launch their protests rejecting the government’s salary proposals. The banking union carries out a strike in the Banco Provincia and has called a strike for April 6; the "hard" pickets aligned with the parties of the left, have resumed the protest in the street, against the revision of social plans and the "moderate" pickets seek to join the new CGT.

5. To conclude:

a) The government is already going through the longest electoral campaign of Argentine history, seeking to get to the World Cup with the debate on abortion and then launch the proselytizing action as of August.

b) Macri considers the Judiciary as his main limit to power, and seeks mechanisms to remove judges and fill in vacancies, but the Senate sets the limit on that.

c) Peronism moves towards unity in disorder and contradiction, with Cristina in a second seat as the president hopes she can divide it.

d) A new, closer-to-government CGT seems to emerge, without Moyano and Barrionuevo, but in a context of growing conflicts as show by teachers, state workers and bank unions.

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