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Argentine Political Outlook (Sep-28-20) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Sep-28-20, por Rosendo Fraga

1. The President's alignment with the Vice President's political strategy rules the political scene. Last week the CGT tried to reorganize "albertism": the concrete proposal was to hold a large rally on October 17, when 75 years have passed since Peronism emerged in Argentine politics. The proposed axis was a massive demonstration with social distancing. The rally itself was part of the idea of retaking control of the street, which has been in the hands of the opposition and its "flag-waving" protests during the pandemic until today. After 48 hours of analyzing the proposal, the President rejected it. It was replaced -until now- by a great virtual rally, with the joint presence of the President and Vice President. The rally was thus diluted by the "prudence" of the Administration and the attitude of Kirchnerism to transform it into a celebration of unity. The CGT also proposed launching the candidacy of Alberto Fernández for president of the PJ, whose authorities have been postponing the renewal. The intention is for governors to be the protagonists of this movement, but so far none have moved in this direction. The idea of the President seems to be to avoid conflicts with Kirchnerism and to unify its agenda with that of the Vice Presidency. In relation to the opposition, the policy of confrontation promoted by Kirchnerism has clearly been imposed. This is manifested in Congress and in the fact that the contacts continue, but are now hidden so as not to give it political significance. 

2. In the Judiciary, the President, who months ago said that he would not have to expand the Court and that he aspired to have a good relationship with it, has led to a confrontational attitude. Alberto Fernández had a good relationship during his time as Néstor Kirchner's chief of staff with members of the Highest Court, such as Ricardo Lorenzetti. But this has not prevented the President from confronted the Court today within the framework of Kirchnerism's policy of aligning the Judiciary with its political objectives. This week, the High Court will have to make decisions regarding the case that has been initiated for the replacement of three magistrates who are dealing with major lawsuits against the Vice President and who have precedents of having ruled against her. There would be no unity of opinion among the 5 members of the Court on the matter. President Fernández criticized the president of the Court (Rosenkrantz) for speeding up the treatment of the case - Kirchnerism wants to promote impeachments that were presented against it - but he also criticized the Highest Court for not having complied with the law that requires implementing gender policies in the public sector, passed a decade ago. This point was answered by Highton de Nolasco (the only woman on the Court), who refuted the President recalling all the measures taken in accordance with the law since her predecessor, Carmen Argibay, took office. It was not the intention of the President when he took office (and not until a few weeks ago) to have a conflict with the Court, giving signs of a shift towards the government's authoritarianism. 

3. The wealth tax bill is another sign that shows the President's alignment with the Vice President. The bill has been promoted by congressmen Máximo Kirchner and Carlos Heller for almost six months. When it was first proposed, the Executive Branch hinted that it would not support it and tried to delay its submittal. Now the bill obtained half approval in the Lower House and will be approved at the Senate, where 41 senators give Personism 5 more seats than necessary to reach a majority. The exchange rate problem generated by confusing measures and countermeasures of the Central Bank and ANSES show, above all, the consequence of the President's method of not meeting the Cabinet - he did it only once since December 10 - and not wanting to have a Minister of Economy, opting to have the sector managed by different officials. This has not been a clear conflict between the Administration and Kirchnerism, but it has shown the tension that exists regarding the economic area. One of the congress members of La Cámpora argued in the discussions that Argentina could present a new model, similar to that of Cuba and Venezuela, but a successful one, because it has guaranteed access to rural dollars, and with that it can finance a popular economy project. The margins of the discussion within the ruling party seem to have lost control of the President. Negotiations with the Monetary Fund may begin in October, but the negotiating time is too long for the dynamic political scenario of Argentina. 

4. The speed of events and the leadership of the Vice President are the two major events. The 30 days that span from August 24 to September 24 began with Duhalde's assertion that Argentina was facing a civil war, military coup or social outbreak; on the 29th of the that month, the Vice President appeared at the Government House for the first time since December 10, at the presentation on the renegotiation of the debt; on September 6, the demonstration of the Buenos Aires police took place; later the conflict erupted around exchange rate measures; then Duhalde reappeared saying that "I see Alberto Fernández "groggy" as De la Rúa in his final days in office"; and now a discussion is raised around the October 17 rally. When the pandemic began, it was clear that the President began to prioritize his image and the Vice President, instead, focused on "accumulating power"; she did it very effectively, but in the case of the President, the more than six and a half months of quarantine started wearing down his approval. Surveys that are analyzed in Government House show that when the quarantine began at the end of March, the positive image of the President was 27 points higher than that of the Vice President. On the other hand, it is now only 9, that is to say that the presidential approval has dropped but that of the Vice President remains relatively stable. In this context, the public reappearance of Cristina Kirchner on August 29 became an accelerator of the political process, seeming to assume the motto of La Cámpora: "we go for more, we go for everything." But there are two central problems that evolve negatively for the Government. The first is social: according to the Indec, unemployment reached 13.1% in the second quarter, but the economic activity rate fell 9.2, -the people who want to work- (it is in the second quarter when restrictions escalated). This is revealing that the fall in employment is much more important than what the measurement of unemployment reflects. Also, inequality has already increased, the number of people who go to soup kitchens and the poverty rate in this quarter seems to have reached 45%, projected to 50% by the end of the year, while poverty in minors would hit, according to Unicef, 62.5%. The other problem is the pandemic, where the results are clearly negative. The 3,500 more deaths that were reported in the province of Buenos Aires when the tracking system changed shows a truly unjustifiable lack of control. In its weekly performance, according to Johns Hopkins University, Argentina continues among the 10 worst countries (it is still in 4th place), but with a number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants for the last week of 6.1, the worst figure for any of these 10 countries since August 16. Taking the last 6 weeks, the evolution of infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the country is also negative: 107.2, 144.8, 158.5, 167.8, 171.8 and 178.7. 

5. To conclude: 

a. The CGT's attempt to revitalize "albertism" was neutralized by the refusal of the Administration to carry out the demonstration proposed for October 17 and the decision of Kirchnerism that the President and Vice President share the virtual commemorative rally. 

b. The president started his office seeking to be on good terms with the Court but the confrontational strategy of Kicherism has led him to the contrary situation. 

c.  The wealth tax considered months ago means an imposition of Kirchnerism. 

d.  Speed characterizes the Argentine political process while the social context and the pandemic are the two crucial problems for Government.

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