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

1.  In his speech today, on occasion of the opening of the ordinary sessions of Congress, the president tries to escape the political crisis that the so-called "VIP vaccination" has generated. There is a clear message to the middle class, ratifying the announcement that the floor will be raised to pay income tax. He says the bill will be discussed in the Lower House in the next days. The middle class and in particular the lower middle class is key to the triumph of Peronism in October. Getting their votes, or at least part of them, is vital to the PJ's success.In addition, it is the sector that the crisis of the "VIP vaccination" has affected the most in terms of the fall of the government's image. The economy is another axis of the address. He announces that this year growth returns with "inclusion" and without compromising dates regarding the debt restructuring with the International Monetary Fund and the Paris Club. It should be noted that in recent weeks the Vice President's position that the agreement with the IMF be postponed until after the election seems to have gained influence in the government so as not to disturb the campaign. Criticisms of justice are a central part of the message in political terms.Since December, the President's speech regarding the Judiciary has been increasingly identified with that of Cristina Kirchner's. She has assumed the thesis of "lawfare" that disqualifies judicial decisions adverse to the ruling party, arguing that they have political objectives. The Court is not immune to criticism. The opposition is also a target of the President whom he accuses of being "systematic" and preventing any possibility of dialogue or agreement. It is a more ratifying than self-critical speech. The pandemic is presented as the cause of the announcements and the broken promises.


2.  But last week it was confirmed that the vaccination problem is the most important political crisis that the government has had in its almost 15 months in office. Polls show a 5 to 8 point drop in government approval. As the days go by, the legal actions show more information about people vaccinated irregularly. President Alberto Fernández has adopted the attitude of rejecting that there may be crimes in what has happened. In this line, he chooses to place the responsibility on the vaccinated, trying to reduce that of those who ordered to vaccinate.At the health level, the strategy is to speed up the arrival of vaccines as much as possible, focusing the strategy on increasing the number of people vaccinated every day. The contagion of the new health minister Carla Vizzotti does not facilitate the handling of the crisis. The political attitude of the ruling party and the opposition has hardened and the political language between them is that of a full return to the so-called "social crack". It was evidenced in the march carried out by the opposition on Saturday, Feb 27.The placement of symbolic corpses with names of the ruling party linked to the irregular vaccination on the gate of the government house, and the aggression of union protesters evidence this hardened stance. In this context, the opposition political leadership, the PRO, the UCR, the CC, and the so-called "ultra-liberal" sectors were in the street trying to lead and capitalize on the protest.


3.  The conviction of LázaroBáez was a strong political impact for the ruling party by reinstating the issue of corruption in the center of the scene.Among the President's advisers, it was considered that the last week of February has been the worst for the whole administration, as thevaccination scandal was also worsened by the most politically relevant corruption ruling. The ruling affects the Vice President to the extent that other cases such as the "road administration" are considered precedent in terms of the origin of the money laundered in Báez's case. The grounds for this ruling were given in the Federal Oral Court (TOF) because the ruling, although unanimous, has different grounds in the different magistrates. This conviction has accentuated the criticism between the teams of the President and the Vice President who accuses him of not working effectively in justice to neutralize adverse decisions. Eugenio Zaffaroni (a jurist considered ultra K) said that there was going to be a "popular riot" against the injustice of sentences like that of LázaroBáez. The K also criticize the government house for how it handled the crisis of the "VIP vaccination" and the lack of protection of figures identified with the Vice President, such as Treasury Attorney Carlos Zannini.


4.  As for Peronism, Kirchnerism -through La Cámpora- began the campaign to take control of Peronism in Buenos Aires. While the opposition demonstration was taking place, at the same time the Buenos Aires Peronism Council met, summoned via WhatsApp with only 48 hours in advance. During the week, La Cámpora finished closing an agreement with four mayors: from Lomas de Zamora, Insaurralde, from Almirante Brown, Cascallares, from Hurlingham, Zabaleta and from Merlo, Menéndez. After a meeting with the Minister of Public Works, the ex-mayor Gabriel Katopodis, it awarded new works to the mayors who support the arrival of Máximo Kirchner to the presidency of the Buenos Aires PJ. It was decided to call internal elections for May 2, although the terms end on December 17. The mayor of Esteban Echevarría, Fernando Gray, currently head of Buenos Aires Peronism, rejecting the decision, announced that he would question it in court. Alejo Ramos Padilla, identified with Kirchnerism, has just assumed the federal court 1 of La Plata, with electoral jurisdiction throughout the province. This does not make the success of Gray's legal action easy, but in the second instance, the situation could be different. Aligning Buenos Aires Peronism is vital for La Cámpora for its Máximo 2023 project. Meanwhile, the President's decision to suspend the demonstration organized by various sectors of Peronism for Monday, March 1, on the President's speech in Congress, with the intention to oppose the opposition march of 2 days before, caused disappointment in sectors of Kirchnerism such as the Evita Movement.


5.      To conclude: 

a) The President uses the opening speech of the ordinary sessions of the Congress, to try to overcome the political crisis generated by the "VIP vaccination". 

b)  But the message does not seem sufficient to overcome what is the government's most serious political crisis in almost 15 months of administration. 

c)  The corruption ruling against LázaroBáez and his family createdfeelings of crisis within the ruling party. 

d) Kirchnerism, through La Cámpora, launched its strategy to take control of Greater Buenos Aires, where it finds a focus of resistance.

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