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Argentine Political Outlook (Ene-04-21) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Ene-04-21, by Rosendo Fraga

1. When the political scenario for 2020 was laid out last year, there were issues easy to foresee, but the pandemic was unpredictable. First, the fact that the relationship between the President and the Vice President was going to be key in the ruling party; second, a difficult economic yearwas getting near, in which social indicators were not going to improve, but worsen somewhat; third, the rescheduling of the foreign debt was going to be the most important economic issue to be solved; fourth, for Kirchnerism, gaining influence in the Judiciary was going to be a priority.All this was true to some extent, but the imponderable event could not be foreseen: the pandemic. It was an unforeseen event on a global level whose consequences and scope are still difficult to predict. It has become clear that we are going internationally to a more nationalistic and less multilateral world. The "nationalization" of vaccines and the lack of concrete action by the G20 are some evidences. Both situations will have consequences in Argentina in 2021. 

2. In principle, the legislative election in October and the advance of the open primaries in August - which could be suspended - will be the central political-electoral event that will order the actions of politicians. Butone year to go before the election is an unpredictable scenario in terms of facts and time. Argentina is experiencing a great political acceleration combined with an unresolved crisis between the president and the vice president, the problems that derive from the pandemic, in addition to being imponderable -as the Buenos Aires police rebellion- make what can happen in months and even weeks unpredictable. Analyzing politics in conventional terms, the starting point is that despite the decline in the image of the President in recent months, he, as the most relevant figure in electoral terms within the ruling party, and the city mayor of the Buenos Aires, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, in the opposition, without being candidates, will influence the electoral process.Today,Larreta seems more consolidated in his space than Fernández in the ruling party. Vice President Cristina Kirchner appears with a quota of power and the decision to use it that will be an unavoidable fact in the political scene of 2021 and it is likely that she will have more influence in defining the candidacies than the President himself. 

3. The fact thatLarreta and Fernández have the best approval rates in the two main political spaces shows that the moderate are winning, but frustration and resentment underlie society. An unconventional policy that analysts find it difficult to understand, is growing, as is happening throughout the Western world. It can be synthesized as "the party of the angry". In Argentina there are social conditions for the emergence of an alternative with these characteristics. It has not found a reference or leader through which to structure itself. This political force is identified with the "let everyone go" and the "antipolitical" feeling, it feeds on those who are desperate due to insecurity, especially in the most popular sectors of Greater Buenos Aires; on the middle class whose standard of living and income have been undermined; and those who claim they are fed up with corruption.For them, there are not too many differences between Cristina, Alberto or Macri, although at the level of formal politics they appear with different and antagonistic alternatives. At the electoral level, a central fact is whether Peronism is united or divided. If it is fragmented, the chances of the opposition increase. Buta united Peronismis hard to beat, especially in the legislative election. Peronism lost in 2013, 2015 and 2017 because Sergio Massa divided it. When Cristina reunited it, then it won the election. Hypotheses -but not certainties-can be built on how this issue is going to be resolved. 

4. Cristina Kirchner should not be underestimated as a political player on the Argentine stage. Cristina's political-electoral strategy is clear: her son, Máximo, should take over the presidency of Buenos Aires Peronism in March; then, manage the slates of candidates and he, as the first on the slate of the Frente de Todos, should win the province of Buenos Aires, and from there, go for the presidential candidacy in 2023. His offensive to build power will continue in the Judiciary and the media. In foreign policy, the relationship with the United States will not be easy, despite the arrival of Biden to power. Argentina will seek to get closer to China with issues such as the incorporation to the geopolitical project of the "New Silk Road", the option for the G5 technology of Huawei company, and the use and expansion of the swap in yuans that make up the reserves of the Central Bank.The social situation will be difficult and severe: unemployment, poverty and inequality will be difficult to reverse, ending 2020 with indicators similar to those of 2001 and in some cases worse. The same will happen with public security (crime), which will continue to be the pressing problem, especially for the lower income sectors. But the evolution of the pandemic, and in particular vaccination, will be the main variable for the political context. And in Argentina, as in the whole world, it is a subject where unpredictability reigns.


5. Toconclude: 

a. The pandemic will continue to be the central issue at global level and in Argentina throughout 2021, but new imponderable events cannot be ruled out on the foreign and domestic fronts.

b. The mid-term election is expected to concentrate the year's dynamics in political and electoral terms: winning in the BA province by one vote will mean winning the national election. 

c. While moderate actors prevail in polls, dissatisfaction and resentment prevail in broad sectors of society, despite which the unity of BA province peronism will be decisive to define the election. 

d. The vice president has a clear political strategy: Maximo should take over the presidency of theBA province PJ in March and then head the Frente de Todos slate in this district, and if he wins, he could runfor president in 2023.

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