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Argentine Political Outlook (Dic-21-20) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Dic-21-20, by Rosendo Fraga

1. The rally led by Peronism in La Plata on December 18 confirmed Cristina's letter commemorating one year of government: her advance over power. From the political point of view, she brought together the five most relevant figures of the ruling coalition: herself, the President of the Nation, Alberto Fernández; the governor of the province of Buenos Aires, Axel Kicillof; her son, Máximo Kirchner, president of the ruling bloc of the Lower House; and Sergio Massa, Speaker of this House. The idea was to show unity with a view to the October 2021 mid-term election in this district. Winning or losing a mid-term election implies obtaining one more vote (or one less) in this province, neither the national sum of votes nor the number of seats count. When Francisco de Narváez won over Kirchnerism in 2009, in the province of Buenos Aires, this implied a national triumph; when Sergio Massa won in Buenos Aires in 2013 the same thing happened; when Esteban Bullrich beat Cristina by a couple of points in 2017, that meant winning the national election. That is why the unity of Peronism in the district is key, and if that goes along with a certain dispersion in the opposition, the better. But the rally had a much more immediate effect: Cristina's advance on power that she had marked 8 days earlier, when she called for the resignation of the Court and strongly questioned it. On Monday 14, during the march "for a Christmas without political prisoners" organized by La Cámpora, the ultra-Kirchnerist sectors demanded the resignation of the Court from the streets. In La Plata, the intention of the Vice President that her son, Máximo, be the next president of Buenos Aires Peronism to continue building political leadership, was plain to see. 

2. The verbal and body language in the La Plata rally was more than eloquent: Cristina insisted in her complaint that this Court uses the rulings with political intent to persecute members of her movement. Alberto Fernández challenged the highest court with similar arguments and maintained that she is "a politically persecuted person." However, the biggest impact was when, referring to the members of the cabinet, Cristina said "anyone who is afraid will find another job." That is, she made a direct proposal asking for a cabinet renewal. The message was taken up and the discussion now turned to what ministries will change and when. So far, the President has tried to delay the changes because it will be difficult for him to resist the appointment of Cristina's candidates. The day after the event in La Plata, the President said "nothing will be able to break my friendship with Cristina", admitting the leadership of his running mate. The pressure for resignations in the Court is raised politically with the Vice President taking the lead. But also Kirchnerism goes back to the idea of raising the members of the Court from 5 to 11 -for which only a simple majority of the two Houses is needed- and appointing the new members by decree. This is what Macri tried to do at the start of his Administration with the two vacancies and later quit due to the political-institutional cost that it would have. The two-thirds to remove members of the Court through impeachment today are difficult to achieve: the Frente de Todos lacks 6 seats, provided that the attendance is perfect. But in the Council of Magistrates there has been a change: of the 13 members, 7 are with the ruling party and 6 are not. As it takes two-thirds of the members to propose candidates, the Council was blocked. But 2 of the 6 who were not with the Government - the representatives of the Judicial Branch - changed their position to allow appointments. In addition, the replacement of two members of Juntos por el Cambio in the Council are more moderate, representatives of the Buenos Aires city government and the judicial operator of the Macrism, Daniel Angelici. 

3. Outside of the political sphere, in what Kirchnerism calls "factual sectors", there is an important political movement. The attitude of the Episcopate of not attending to greet the President personally as it does annually shows the tension around the vote in the Senate on the abortion law, which has a half-approval in the Lower House. Voting will resume on December 29 and the sector favorable to the bill would have 35 senators, 1 less than the quorum needed to hold sessions. Regarding the media, the regulation promoted by the State in the audiovisual media implies an increase of only 5% in the rate of cellular telephony, internet and cable television and a minimum rate for the lower income sectors. Telecom - Grupo Clarín's most important company in the sector - has said that this policy will send many SMEs in the technology sector to collapse. The president had lunch with a delegation from the CGT led by Rodolfo Daer, Carlos Acuña and half a dozen other leaders. In this way, Fernández sought to compensate for the meeting held with Moyano and his sons last week and has begun to explore the possibility of uniting the Peronist unionism. In the economy, the influence of the Vice President -whose economic advisor in fact is Axel Kicillof- clearly aims to reduce the tightening demanded by the International Monetary Fund in an electoral year, without the Government showing a decision to face it so far. There is a foreign policy fact that has a high domestic political effect. On Thursday, December 17, the number two of the Venezuelan government, Diosdado Cabello, accused President Alberto Fernández of "delicate skin" and "being lukewarm" in his position regarding the Maduro regime. Specifically, he demanded that the recognition of the questioned legislative election should be accompanied by the statement that there is no dictatorship in Venezuela. The point is that no official leader - cabinet members, governors, legislators, etc. - said a single word defending the President from the Chavist attack. 

4. But while this happens in politics, the pandemic and vaccination also occupy a central place in political terms. Although the last month (between the second half of November and the first half of December) the infections of Covid-19 in Argentina began to decrease, this decrease was interrupted this last week. Argentina occupies the 12th position of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants according to Johns Hopkins University (the only Latin American country that is worse in this indicator is Peru). Next, in Latin America are Mexico (15th), Brazil (16th) and Chile (18th). The second wave of Covid-19 that broke into the West reached Latin America again with delays of only a few weeks. The vaccination that the Government imagined with "epic" characteristics- in the words of the Chief of Staff, Santiago Cafiero - has become a political conflict. The Argentine government hastily opted for the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine, a decision that was influenced by its worldview. But when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he was not going to be vaccinated because it had not been proven effective for those over 60 and those under 18, this had a major political impact inside and outside the government. Meanwhile, the option that the Government had chosen as a priority, the Astrazeneca-Oxford vaccine, appears with more delays for its possible use, while the Pfizer-Biontech, which is the first that was experimented this year in Argentina from the Military Hospital, did not reach an agreement with Argentina. The Minister of Health, Ginés González García, has said that he raised "unacceptable" conditions, such as requiring the President's signature on the agreement, without providing sufficient clarity on the differences. 

5. To conclude: 

a.   The rally of unity of Peronism in La Plata called and led by Cristina had objectives based on the election, but also on the immediate game of power. 

b.   Cristina's repeated complaints about the Court, the claims of the militants about the resignation of its members and the explicit request of the Vice President for a change of cabinet imply an advance towards power. 

c.   The Church has distanced itself from the Government; the audiovisual companies call for the regulation of rates, the President balances the two union confederations and the number two of Chavism attacks Fernández. 

d.  Regarding Covid-19, Argentina is the country in Latin America with the highest number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants after Peru, and the agreement on the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine that Argentina made to act fast has transformed into a political conflict and an important wear-and-tear.

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