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Argentine Political Outlook (Ene-27-20) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Ene-27-20, by Rosendo Fraga

1. Alberto Fernández's trip to Israel has been a political success, which also influences the relationship with the US. The key has been his meeting with the Israeli prime minister. His conversation with Netanyahu, allows him to lower the tension regarding the investigation of the AMIA bombing attack, the trial over the memorandum with Iran and the trial for the death of Nisman. It should be remembered that on December 10 when the Argentine President took office, there was no official Israeli representation, which was limited to the accredited Ambassador in Buenos Aires. Fernández discussed the issue of Argentine external debt, which is key in the tours of the Argentine President. Restoring dialogue between Argentina and Israel positively influences the link with the US, since almost immediately, the increase in tariffs for steel and aluminum exported by Argentina to that country was removed. Weeks ago, the same measure adopted by the Trump Administration regarding Brazil was a sign of the good relationship between the US government and Bolsonaro. 

2. The foreign policy priority of the Argentine President will continue between October 29 and February 6. The trip to Europe that he undertakes will focus on obtaining support for the renegotiation of the foreign debt, a priority for the Argentine government, which intends to have the renegotiation resolved by March 31. The Argentine President begins with the Pope, whom he will see on January 31. While there are tensions between the Vatican and Buenos Aires (abortion and others), a favorable stance by Francisco on the Argentine position is taken for granted. In Rome he will meet with the Italian Prime Minister (Conte), recently strengthened by the defeat of the extreme right (Salvini) in local elections. He will continue in Spain, where the President of the socialist government (Sánchez) will support his Argentine counterpart. On February 3 he will be with Merkel, whose position is relevant in the European context regarding the IMF's position. He will finish the tour in Paris on February 5, meeting with Macron. After the debt, the Argentine President will introduce the issue of the Mercosur agreement with the EU, which finds difficulties for its realization, especially due to the French position. One could well discuss to what extent this European tour of the Argentine President truly pays off before completing two months in the government, but without a doubt it is a success, given that on December 10, when taking over, only three presidents attended, those of Cuba, Paraguay and Uruguay. But in the link with Washington, the pressure for Argentina to adopt a more defined position regarding the crises in Venezuela and Bolivia will remain relevant. 

3. Thus, the Argentine President spends the last week of January and the first of February abroad, while the eyes of Peronism continue to look at the attitudes of the Vice President. During this period, as appropriate institutionally, she takes over the Presidency. She has exercised this role with great prudence. She has not gone to the Government House to exercise the position. She has not signed any decree during the days that Alberto Fernández was out of the country. She made no public statement. But this does not mean that she has stopped her heavy political duties. At the end of April, the mandate of the Justicialist Party (PJ) authorities expires and its President (Gioja) will not be reelected. Kirchnerism already works to occupy this position. Its candidates for now are Máximo Kirchner, the Vice President's son, who presides over the official bloc in the Lower House or a former Chief of Staff under her presidency, Jorge Capitanich. At the same time, this political current continues to occupy positions in the second line of government, building a strong structure of political power. As for the legal cases that affect the Vice President, none has imminent consequences. The President made public his support for the governor of Buenos Aires, (Kicillof), who was part of the delegation that traveled to Israel. He took some distance away from him, saying that "we must let him do", after a week in which the markets showed some jitters, as the country risk rose 14% this week, fearing that the Buenos Aires province debt will default, when after a first rejection of creditors, they now have a new opportunity until February 5. The government actively works in Congress, to get both houses of Congress to approve its bill for the negotiation of the debt, which would include the provinces. The ruling party awaits the Senate's approval for the same day February 5. For his part, the Minister of Finance (Guzmán) travels to Wall Street to convince creditors and meet with the IMF authorities. In the first week of February, he is expected to go to the Vatican to attend a seminar on the global economic situation. 

4. As for the opposition, the statements of former President Macri and those of his most important advisor, Jaime Durán Barba, have impacted on the Frente de Todos. From his summer residence (Cumelén), the former said that the decision to take foreign debt, had been erroneously induced by his advisors, despite his own resistance. He also criticized the UCR for alleged lack of support in his job. At the same time, he leaked that in February he will resume the political activity, again seconded by Peña and in charge of a new Foundation, which in fact will compete with "Pensar" recently relaunched as an organ destined to generate the future government opposition programs. The reaction within the PRO and the UCR has been negative. The strongest opposition position is held by the President of the Party (Bullrich), who, following the murder of a young man by a group of rugby players in Villa Gesell, which has had a strong impact on society, said it could have been avoided with a Taser gun, which she promoted and the new Minister of Security (Frederic), banned. But evidence of Macri's loss of political influence was given by his former advisor Durán Barba, who blatantly said that Macri "is history" and that Cristina is "the brightest woman in Argentine history." But in recent days, legal cases that affect previous administrations have been activated. The government will review the concessions of the North and West highways, which in the past were managed by the Macri Group; the Minister of Production (Katopodis) said that under the previous administration, the National Road Office had officials who "were on both sides of the counter"; the same official reported that $ 10,000 were found in the office of an advisor to the previous administration; irregularities were reported in the loan of 350 million dollars, granted by the National Bank to a company that contributed to Todos por el Cambio; the FIU was denounced for closing a case for money laundering against a foreign bank. 

5. To conclude: 

a) The success of the Argentina president to Israel has reduced pressures on sensitive issues (AMIA, Nisman and Memorandum with Iran) and improve ties with the US. 

b) The tour he starts this week (The Vatican, Italy, Spain, France and Germany) is aimed at improving Argentina's position in the debt talks. 

c) The former president has decided to discreetly move in her role as Vice President in charge of the government but moves on in building power, both in the PJ as well as in the Administration. 

d) The statements by Macri and Duran Barba show the existing political crisis in the opposition, when the legal cases against the previous government are activated.

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