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Inicio arrow Análisis arrow Argentine Political Outlook (22-02-21)

Argentine Political Outlook (22-02-21) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Feb-22-21, by Rosendo Fraga

1.   The political crisis generated by the case of "VIP vaccination" is the most important in the government of Alberto Fernández in his 14 months in office. Beatriz Sarlo's complaint of having received the offer of an early vaccination, the cases of officials, friends and relatives vaccinated in a privileged way in provinces and municipalities and internationally, those denounced in Spain, Italy, Poland, Ecuador, Peru, among others, clearly stated that a similar situation could occur around the national government. But the impact operated as an "imponderable" event. That is, the effect was the surge of an unforeseen and unpredictable situation. The government's reaction was swift. It did not deny the facts - which was not possible to do, based on Horacio Verbitsky's complaint - Ginés Gonzáles García was the visible face of the pandemic for a year. The idea of the ruling party's vaccination as an "epic" based on the campaign for the legislative election in October has lost viability. The open crisis is not closed. The possibility of new "VIP vaccinated" is open in all sectors of the State (national, provincial and municipal) and even cases of relevant people, outside of politics, businesspersons, athletes, etc. are already emerging. The point is that the privilege of vaccines confirms for ordinary people the growing existence of inequality that today is the most important social problem in the global arena. The vaccination crisis gives an opportunity to the opposition, as long as it does not have leaders involved in it and, in the short term, it will seek to demand that the national authorities, including the new health minister, concur to give explanations to the congress. For its part, the Catholic Church -through the episcopal conference- expressed its concern about the "politicization" of vaccination. 

2.But the crisis has had an impact within the government and on the power relationship between the President and the Vice President. Carla Vizzotti, who was vice minister of health at the time of the events, arrives at the cabinet proposed by Ginés, but with ties with Cristina Kirchner that were expanded in the first months of the pandemic. With a replacement in mind, the President opted for her seeking to block a candidate of the Vice President, who is the Minister of Health of the province of Buenos Aires, Daniel Gollán. Because of this situation, Vizzotti's replacement as deputy minister is Nicolás Kreplak, who, as number two in the province of Buenos Aires, now goes on to second Vizzotti. This confirms a classic situation in the power relationship within the government. A minister closer to the Administration and a vice minister closer to the Vice President, who in this case can be included within "La Cámpora". For the ruling party, the crisis is a consequence of the attitude of "Grupo Clarín". The truth is that the newspaper had started an investigation into the "VIP vaccination" in the health ministry, which it was going to publish imminently and Horacio Verbitsky came forward to denounce it. The episode will deepen the government's conflict with this group of media, threatened by the regulation of audiovisual rates (television, cable television, radio, internet, telephony, etc.). The conflict put an important government initiative in the background looking to generate an expectation for the future: the announcement of the socio-economic council. 

3.The struggle for the control of justice that occupied the center of the political dispute last week, temporarily went to the background, but did not disappear. The Vice President succeeded in her operation to prevent the case of the "macrist espionage" from passing from the federal court of Lomas de Zamora to Comodoro Py. It was the advancement of an important case against the Macri administration, which allowed the prosecution of more than 30 intelligence agents and prison officials to be finalized. With the Council of the Magistracy now aligned with the ruling party with the appointment of Diego Molea (linked to "La Cámpora"); the proposal for the appointment of new judges and prosecutors - there are 250 vacancies - and the push to complete the retirement requested from numerous magistrates, the ruling party is advancing in a strategy to obtain changes in its favor in the national justice. The Court, after signs of independence, shows that it stands firm against the government and that is the main problem for the ruling party. The position of the Administration and the vice president at this time shows no cracks in the conflict with justice. The line of Kirchnerism has been imposed and Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner remain strongly aligned. Both have achieved unity for the new building of the PJ that will take over on March 21. They will seek to prevent the competing opposition slate, headed by the governor of San Luis Alberto Rodríguez Saá, from being able to run. Nevertheless, the Great Buenos Aires remains the unsolved obstacle. The mayors maintain their opposition to Máximo Kirchner assuming the presidency of the Buenos Aires PJ. President Fernando Gray, who is the mayor of Esteban Echeverría district, maintains his refusal to resign with the "deaf" support of the other communal chiefs. 

4. Towards the end of February, the social situation shows signs that tensions are worsening. Although the trade union confederations have supported the general proposal for a prices and wages agreement, although the government and the general secretary of the CGT, Rodolfo Daer, plays an important role in the brand-new economic and social council, the agreement does not seem easy or close. The inflation rate in the first quarter, and in particular the increase in food, contribute a factor of uncertainty that makes agreements difficult. Production Minister Matías Kulfas plays a central role in this problem. But the signs of growing tension are clear. The demonstration of thousands of picketers along 9 de Julio Avenue demanding more resources for community kitchens and social subsidies is the largest that has taken place since 2019. Social movements opposed to the government led by the Partido Obrero (PO) demonstrated -Trotskyist- bringing together movements that can generically be called the left, which the government does not control. Regarding the social movements allied to the government - which are represented in the new economic and social council - some leaders such as Juan Grabois have begun to give alerts and threats to the government due to the critical social situation.


5.     To conclude: 

a) The so-called "VIP vaccination" crisis is the most politically relevant that this administration has faced since it came to power 14 months ago. 

b) In the power struggle that underlies the government, the arrival of Carla Vizzotti to the ministry was promoted by the President and that of Kreplak was promoted by the Vice President. 

c) The battle for justice does not disappear because of the "imponderable" of vaccination. Cristina faces threats, but manages to stop and delay them while she continues to advance. 

d) Social tension increases as inflation converges, with insufficient supply of dining rooms and protests in the streets.

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