Argentine Political Outlook (Mar-27-17)
Mar-27-17 - by Rosendo Fraga

1. The federal teachers’ march held on March 22 confirmed that the Buenos Aires conflict has been turned into a national dispute. Hundreds of thousands of teachers across the country filled Plaza de Mayo and overflowed it in the most important national teacher protest in decades. It was the culmination of two days of the national strike launched by teachers. On Thursday, March 30th, a new national strike of the most important teachers' union (CTERA) will take place coinciding with the demonstration carried out by the combative trade unionism (CTA). The meeting of the Buenos Aires authorities with the teachers' unions of the province that takes place on Tuesday 28 will hardly reach an agreement and the Governor (Vidal) does not rule out setting the raise by decree. At national level, only seven provinces have agreed on wages with the teachers' unions, but none of the most important four (Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Cordoba and Buenos Aires City) are on that list. On Tuesday 21, university professors, scientists, researchers and artists protested at the gates of the Ministry of Education, expanding the protest. At the beginning of the fourth week of the conflict, in a period of fifteen days of class, the national teacher strike took place for six days, and in the province of Buenos Aires, there were only three days of school classes. But the President seems determined to stand firm, betting that the polarization between Vidal and Baradel, will finally play in favor of the ruling coalition. 

2. The three marches that took place in repudiation to the last military coup were protests against the government and showed how radical human rights activists have become. In support of the head of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo (Carlotto), a sector of Kirchnerism and the more moderate organizations also marched in the protest. Another sector of Kirchnerism and the most radicalized organizations marched with the President of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo (Bonafini). A strong counterpoint emerged between them. The left parties launched a third march. But the clashes among the three sectors did not prevent their convergence in a strong opposition to the Macri government, which they accuse of "deniers" in the issue of human rights and of "backsliding" in judicial cases and in assuming greater radicalization. This was seen both in the open vindication of the ERP and Montoneros, the most important guerrilla organizations of the 1970s, as in the images and slogans brandished. The ruling party criticized the politicization of the act and Macri labelled it "as an opposition act for fanatics." The pro-Kirchner presence was relevant. Máximo and Florencia Kirchner marched 12 kilometers leading the caravan of La Cámpora, and Bonafini -who qualified Vidal of "murderer"- arrived in a bus, accompanied by Baradel and Aníbal Fernández. 

3. Social movements, Peronism and unions take on opposition attitudes of different types. Beyond the differences, the four social movements that dialogue with the government have agreed to stay on "alert" and to launch new protests as long as the payment in their favor established by the economic emergency law approved by the Congress in December (10 billion pesos a year) is not effective. Unions are preparing the general strike of April 6, which will be successful with the support of the transport guilds. Their strategy not only aims to support sectoral claims, but also seeks to show their power to teachers' unions - the most important ones in the sector are not part of the CGT and are not Peronist- the militancy of human rights and the left. The National Council of the PJ meets on Tuesday 28 to support the general strike and show a differentiated line of the events of March 24 in which Kirchnerism actively participated. Cristina seems determined to be a candidate and the government seems to work so that she does not get to public and oral trial in the current year - as happens with the future dollar case, that will only be judged in 2018- under the assumption that it can use it for electoral purposes. Regarding her, the President of the Buenos Aires PJ (Espinoza) said that she is clearly winning in La Matanza, which he called the "capital of Peronism". The last former minister of Interior and Transport under Cristina (Randazzo) met with the metallurgical guild, with the governor of San Juan (Uñac) and a K senator that has taken distance from this movement (Abal Medina) and said that "there are signs of a renewed Peronism”, but it is not for sure he will compete with Cristina in the open primaries. The Peronist mayors of the province of Buenos Aires are taking distance from Vidal, after getting close to her. The one who took over as Undersecretary of Housing resigned due to differences with the provincial government within three months and that of José C. Paz, (Ishii), said that "if things do not change, there will be looting in the short term", reflecting certain perceptions in sectors of the suburbs.    

4. Faced with this situation and seven months to go before the elections, Macri dismisses political answers and opts for economic actions, even at the cost of changing his policy. He will not expand his coalition, as claimed by the PRO sector that represents Emilio Monzó; nor will he respond to the claim of the independent to put some order in picket protests; nor will he assume strong public security policies or openly support official demonstrations such as the one launched for 1 April. The answer is to inject 22 billion pesos a month into consumption, including in this figure the increases for retirees by law, which are being discussed in bargaining agreements, housing loans and the increase in social allowances as contained under the economic emergency law. In the province of Buenos Aires, 1,000 public works will be launched with an investment of 30 billion pesos, including roads, housing plans, sewer systems and running water. New rules of "national buy" and "defense of national industry" have been agreed with the industrial unions, which imply going back in the economic openness. As a signal, the national government announced that it will fill 2,300 vacancies it has in the National Public Administration. The government estimates that this shift in economic policy will make people feel the growth already by August 13, when the open primaries will be held. In this context, keeping the Buenos Aires teaching conflict open is clearly a political decision as Minister of Finance Dujovne’s announcement that he will cut spending seem to vanish. 

5. To conclude: 

a) Although the teacher strike may weaken in the BA province, the conflict starts its fourth week, becoming national and spreading to other sectors, such as college professors, scientists and researchers. 

b) The commemorations for the 41st anniversary of the last military coup showed -despite divisions- the radicalization of Kirchnerism, the left and human rights organizations against Macri. 

c) Moderate social movements, the CGT and Peronism take on a different opposing attitude keeping an open dialogue with government. 

d) Government will not respond with political attitudes but with a shift in the economic policy towards distribution, gaining the ground lost among the public opinion and in the face of the election.