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Argentine Political Outlook (Jul-13-20) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Jul-14-20, por Rosendo Fraga
 
 

1. The "flag-waving" protest ("Banderazo") of July 9 marked an escalation in relation to the protest that took place on June 20. It was the most important demonstration since October 2019, when the electoral campaign ended. It had a greater reach and spread in approximately 70 towns in the country, with an epicenter in the City of Buenos Aires, Rosario and Córdoba. Middle-income sectors fed up with the lockdown participated; the farming sector that feels threatened by the memories of the 2008 conflict; small-scale businessmen and merchants who have been hard-hit by the economic halt; claims against K corruption and the "hard" wing of the political opposition joined the move. (The President of the UCR, Alfredo Cornejo, agreed with this sector). Only in the north of Santa Fe, a march took place in favor of the intervention into the Vicentin company, which challenged the one that took place in defense of it. The same day, the President staged a rally in Olivos to resume the discourse of "national unity". Governors, CGT, UIA, SRA, ADEBA, CAC, etc. But the phrase "I'm going to end the serial haters" ended up generating the opposite effect: deepening the polarization. The term is used by the "hardest" sectors of Kirchnerism. What's worse, in late 2017, Maduro in Venezuela passed the "law against hatred" and "intolerance in all its forms of expression." Aware or not, the President took a term from Chavism's "tougher" policy. After this, seeking to regain the political "center", the President called a teleconference with the opposition political forces. The PRO made its decision seeking to avoid internal divisions. Alberto Fernández thus sought to resume the dialogist position, while the Defense Minister Sergio Rossi, maintained that "Alberto is the head of the space." Statements by Defense Minister Agustín Rossi, affirming "Alberto is the head of space", may indicate the intention to reactivate "Albertism". 

2. Today Monday, July 13, the Governor of Buenos Aires, Axel Kicillof and the city Mayor, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, meet to define how the quarantine continues. In the world, the WHO reports that the peak of infections and deaths has not reached the world's peak, despite which the restrictions are being ended due to social and economic pressures. The same is happening in Argentina. On July 11, the Minister of Health, Gines González García, stated that the "peak" of the pandemic in the City of Buenos Aires will arrive "in one and two weeks' time" and "in three and four" in the suburbs. Despite this, it is likely that on July 17, Larreta will be moving towards greater relaxation, while Kicillof faces claims and pressures from the suburbs. Some mayors are asking to "open up" and others ask otherwise. He will be possibly forced to relax measures but less than in the Buenos Aires district. At the same time, he begins to perceive that the economic cost of the lockdown is turning unsustainable, not only economically but also socially. 

3. The division of the political opposition on the one hand weakens it but on the other gives it more prominence to it. The former president, Mauricio Macri, reappeared in recent days with a dual purpose: to resume the party leadership that is threatened by the "dialogue" sectors and "politicize" the judicial offensive against him, where the "illegal espionage" is relevant in political terms. The decision to set up a 9-member board to control the role of Patricia Bullrich as President of the party, revealed that Macri managed to prevail over Larreta and María Eugenia Vidal, by a narrow margin: they will have 4 of the members and the former President 5. This leadership meets today for the first time, in a meeting that is anticipated as "tense". In turn, Kirchnerism takes advantage to "polarize" with Macri, seeking to transform it into the most relevant expression of the opposition, while proposing to dialogue and eventually co-opt the "dialogist" wing of the opposition represented by Larreta and Vidal. The President's entourage coincided with this K strategy through the Chief of Staff Santiago Cafiero and the presidential spokesman, Juan José Biondi, who referred to the "haters", accusing Macri of "useless". The "illegal espionage" case moves on with the judge's substitution, who this week has summoned the former head of the AFI of the previous government, Gustavo Arribas and his former number two, Silvia Majdalani, to testify. Several of the agents prosecuted, award them the orders for espionage operations on opposition figures, the ruling party and Macri's family. While this is happening, the ruling party has managed to control the political effects of Fabián Gutiérrez's murder, former Secretary of the Vice President. 

4. The government is announcing the preparation and announcement of a Post Pandemic program, to launch in the last four months of the year. Economic axes are defined, such as construction, public works, consumption, industry, etc. So far they are concepts without a concrete plan, but the government continues to think of a "Keynessian" plan, with no priority on fiscal balance. As for the social situation, a relevant official in the economic area, such as Cecilia Todesca, has recognized that poverty and unemployment will inevitably increase in the second half. Other sectors of the ruling party emphasize the monitoring of social damages caused by the Extraordinary Family Income (IFE), whose third installment is paid on July 17, the same day that the new stage of quarantine begins. They calculate that this subsidy has avoided an increase of 6 points in poverty and 3 in extreme poverty. The Post Pandemic program would also include a political chapter, with a conflicting initiative: the increase in the number of members of the Court, which could be increased from 5 to 9. It is an initiative of the "hard" wing of Kirchnerism, promoted by Eugenio Zaffaroni. If materialized, it will generate strong rejection in the judicial media and in the political, business, media opposition. The government would have a simple majority in Congress to approve the increase, but faces difficulties in reaching the two-thirds of the Senate necessary to appoint new magistrates. As for the debt, it is clear that the Black Rock fund - which the Administration is committed to "making flexible" through efforts by the Trump Administration that do not seem easy to achieve - has as a reference to obtain no less than in the recent agreement closed with Ecuador. It is expected that the economic crisis generated by the Pandemic will cause payment difficulties for much of the emerging world and the agreements that are now closed will be the floor from which the debtors will seek to negotiate. 

6. To conclude: 

a) The "flag-waving" protest on July 9 deepened political polarization and the president's intention to call for national unity was neutralized by using the term ‘serial haters' against the opposition. 

b) The relaxation of the lockdown will take place when the infection ‘peak' has not yet occurred, and that is caused by the growing social and economic claim against restrictions. 

c) Macri's appearance breaks up his leadership weakness at the PRO and politicizes the legal offensive against him, while the president seeks to retain Larreta as a political ally. 

d) The president's proposal for the post pandemic is focused on the economic and social aspects, but has a risky political chapter by expanding the number of court members.

 
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