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Inicio arrow Análisis arrow Argentine Political Outlook (Nov-27-20)

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

1.  This week marks a month since the letter from the vice president dated October 26 that aimed to clarify her role in power. Since then, the appointment of the new Minister of Housing and Habitat, Jorge Ferraresi, the letter from the senators of the Frente de Todos questioning the Monetary Fund, the changes in the Budget included in the Upper House and the commission's procedure approving the Senate discussion to reduce the number of senators required to elect Attorney General, marked a clear trend, which can be labelled as the advance of Cristina in power. Regarding the Budget, she first returned it to the Lower House so that it could incorporate the public works forms for the provinces that had not been included. This was a blow aimed at Sergio Massa, Speaker of the House. But later, when it returned to the Senate, the K bloc incorporated the provision that there can be no indebtedness in foreign law for current expenses, which implies a blow to the Minister of Economy and Finance (Guzmán). The Vice President may be showing the Monetary Fund where the power is. Mission experts expressed their concerns to the Minister of the Interior, Wado de Pedro, about Cristina's influence on government decisions. The senators' letter was a political response to this questioning of her. 

2.  The approval of the so-called "tax on the rich" in the Lower House is a clear advance of Kirchnerism promoted by Máximo Kirchner in his capacity as president of the Frente de Todos bloc. In the Senate, the bill would be approved without modifications given the absolute majority that Cristina has in this House. All the business community (AEA, Convergencia Empresarial, UIA, Argentine Chamber of Commerce, and agribusiness) questioned the bill. It points to one of the objectives of Kirchnerism: to put the rich as the target of political antagonism, avoiding fighting battles that do not have consensus in public opinion, such as illegal land settlements or expropriations. Until the last minute, Sergio Massa had the hope that as Speaker of the House, he could stop the bill. Despite the fact that he argued he had some health problems and was not going to be in the session that approved it, a political order from the Administration forced him to be present, defeating the bill in fact. Lavagna's congress members also voted for it - so it had 7 more members than necessary - but the former economy minister distanced himself from it. The bill to legalize abortion is another parliamentary issue that generates differences between the Administration and the Vice Presidency. The President is determined to obtain the final approval of the bill before December 31. To do this, he must include it in the extraordinary sessions that begin on December 1. In the Lower House, as happened in 2018, support for legalization would have a majority; in the Senate, as happened then, it does not. If Cristina Kirchner does not operate to achieve the 3 senators required, the same thing as 2 years ago could be repeated. From the cabinet, figures such as the Minister of Women, Gender and Diversity, Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, have begun to press for the Vice President to intervene in favor of the approval of the legalization. In this context, the approval would play in Alberto's favor; the non-discussion at the Senate, in favor of Cristina. 

3.  But the issue of the Judiciary is probably the main area of the conflict between the Administration and the Vice Presidency. On Friday the Senate gave a commission approval for the Kirchnerism bill to reduce the number of senators needed to appoint a new Attorney from 48 to 37. This House will probably give him half approval in the course of this week. But its discussion in the Lower House depends on the Executive incorporating it into the list of bills to be dealt with after December 1, otherwise it cannot be dealt with until March 1 of next year. Until now, the Executive remains firm in support of its candidate for Attorney, Judge Daniel Rafecas. But no contrary attitude has been defined regarding the bill that will have half approval in the Senate, and even the President has said that the constitution does not require two thirds for the appointment of the Attorney, but that the norm that establishes it is only a law. Sectors of the opposition represented by Elisa Carrió maintain the need to support Alberto's candidate, for which they need to prevent the approval of the rule that modifies the number of senators necessary for the election of the attorney. The President thus seems willing to keep his candidate, but not so much to confront Cristina's bill. But if it is approved, his candidate is no longer viable, because the bloc of senators of the Frente de Todos would have enough legislators to appoint the candidate they choose. The bill that the Senate votes not only refers to the majority to elect the attorney, but also establishes a term of 5 years as a term in office and also gives them an important role in the supervision of prosecutors. This week the opinion of the commission of 11 jurists appointed by the President to advice on changes in the Court was known, which also supported reducing the number of senators to designate the attorney. Controlling him becomes a key piece to operate on the lawsuits that affect and threaten Cristina and also to promote those that harm the opposition. 

4.  Polls show that the President's approval stopped declining in November and he is seeking a greater role in foreign policy. Data on the pandemic (dead and infected) in the last week consolidated a downward trend. At the same time, the opening and flexibility of activities have had a certain reflection on the economy and this has been felt in an improvement in informal work. This is what explains why the fall in the image of the President's administration, which began in June, reached the bottom in November. In addition, this is the month of exchange rate stability, in particular the price of the blue dollar, which is an indicator that generates tension and uncertainty not only in financial operators, but in the population of Argentina itself. In foreign policy, the Argentine President visited his Uruguayan counterpart in an informal meeting. It seems more like a gesture designed to create a certain détente than a political strategy. In the Mercosur sphere, Foreign Minister Felipe Solá announced his intention for the country to seek a trade agreement with China outside of the group. It is an important initiative that, if implemented, will transform Mercosur from an imperfect common market to a free trade zone, and which also leaves Brazil free to advance with its trade agreements. At the G20 virtual summit that took place on November 21 and 22, the Argentine President made general proposals related to the environment, inequality, production and inclusion. At the regional level, the violent events in Guatemala, where the Congress was taken, demanding the resignation of the President for the approval of an adjustment plan, are interpreted by government advisers as a deepening of the turn towards progressivism in the region. As for Biden, the only Latin American president who has communicated with him by phone so far was Sebastián Piñera from Chile. The Argentine Foreign Ministry has initiated efforts to achieve the same.


5. To conclude: 

a.   The tensions between the Administration and the Vice President are on the rise and derived from power-related issues than from ideology. 

b.   Formal changes to the Budget, the half approval of the "tax on the rich" and the commission's discussion on the Attorney General Office show a clear advance of kirchnerism in Congress. 

c.   The Attorney General issue is important to influence the lawsuits that threaten and affect Cristina and promote those that harm the opposition, without the President being willing to form an alliance with this force to confront the Vice President. 

d.  Polls show that in November Alberto Fernández' approval stopped falling, a consequence of a certain improvement in the pandemic and a reactivation of informal work due to greater openness, and he seeks greater prominence in foreign policy.

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