The economic and social crisis that Argentina is experiencing has its correlate in the weaknesses shown by its political regime, especially in this election year, and are laid bare by the difficulties in selecting candidates in the two large coalitions – the neoliberal Juntos por el Cambio and the Peronist-progressive Frente de Todos – that hegemonise the political scene in the run-up to the presidential elections.
By Aram Aharonian
The inability of Alberto Fernández’s so-called progressive government to stop the crisis, coupled with the neoliberal opposition’s permanent hate speech and its strategy of opposing everything, have been the triggers for the current tense situation.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s intervention with the intention of interrupting the ruling party’s string of electoral victories only showed the confidence of the magistrates in their impunity vis-à-vis the government. Last Sunday, three other governors linked to the national government won re-election.
The Supreme Court’s decision to interrupt the elections in the provinces of San Juan and Tucumán, five days before they were due to take place, came as a slap in the face to the government, when the amparos had been pending since April.
Perhaps this decision should not only be interpreted as a policy against the executive, although the dispute between the two powers is evident, but also as a desire to strengthen its own position in the face of the incoming government and a desire to consolidate its autonomy in the face of an unstable political power.
All the decisions taken by this court shaped by the right – especially during the previous neoliberal government of Mauricio Macri – have been against Peronism and its allies, making its partiality evident. This decision of the Court was also caused by the impact on the Court of the investigation being carried out by the Impeachment Commission of the Chamber of Deputies on the highest court of justice.
The Court thought that with the complicity of the media corporation what was raised in Parliament would be inconsequential, but it became a real scandal with the four judges at its epicentre, over issues of corruption, influence peddling and other crimes that were revealed by witnesses such as former Court administrator Héctor Marchi and others.
The president of the Court, and the most bellicose of the “four horsemen of the Apocalypses”, Horacio Rosatti, was demolished with accusations serious and substantiated enough to break the media shield. And the interruption of the elections in Tucumán and San Juan was intended as a response to the Impeachment Commission.
Four judges, whom nobody voted for, decided from the Supreme Court of Justice to restrict the votes of hundreds of thousands of people. The decision is a clear intervention in the politics of Argentina’s provinces. It poses a limit to the re-electionist attempts of Peronist governors Sergio Uñac and Jaldo-Manzur, but the rulings do not question huge anti-democratic aspects of these feudal political regimes, such as the laws of slogans and the existence of the system of couplings.
What should be worrying is that the Supreme Court’s drive for autonomy is taking off in an unsuspected way, at the hands of the hegemonic media, and also because of the government’s lack of response.
With the elections in the spotlight
The worrying figure of 8.4% that the monthly variation in the cost of living reached (108.8% in the last 12 months) puts an end to any preaching about the expectation of a downward trend and forces us to recognise that the inflation figure “is not what we want”, as President Alberto Fernández admitted.
However, the responses that are being rehearsed do not allow us to conclude that there will be any favourable developments in the remaining time of this government, while worrying political reactions to the collective mood are brewing. This government has already equalled Mauricio Macri’s record high cost of living, and today the recovery of wages is a utopia.
There are just under two months left to go before the presentation of lists and candidacies, four months before the primaries and six months before the general elections. In politics, in the economy and in the social sphere, a big question mark remains. The situation is wide open, the country is in crisis, inflation is so high, and the traditional parties are in crisis that they can only become competitive by forming broad coalitions that are often, due to their heterogeneity, inoperative in the administration of state affairs.
The resignations of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Mauricio Macri (leaders of the FdT and Juntos por el Cambio (JxC), to be candidates in the elections, unleashed internal disputes in both coalitions, dissociated from a social reality that leaves no doubt as to its undeniable seriousness.
There is no link between the traditional politicians, or their parties and coalitions, and the problems of the daily lives of Argentines (except those of big businessmen), leaving an abstract politics and weariness in the face of a crisis that is spreading over time, among other things because nobody sees a way out that includes them or a future that is not a worsening of the conditions of the present.
What is certain is that whoever wins the elections will have to impose a stabilisation plan, with the social impact that these programmes have. Already “Viva Perón” is not enough to win.
What does the master want?
Both the political leadership of the ruling party and the opposition went to examine themselves before the representatives of the economic power – the US Chamber of Commerce in Argentina (AmCham) – and before them the Minister of Economy Sergio Massa – perhaps campaigning to be a presidential candidate – openly questioned the president:
“To settle in a primary if the government has differences seems to me to be a very serious mistake, because it generates uncertainty. If the fight is about individual positioning, I prefer to watch from the sidelines,” he said, without being asked.
Both US Ambassador Marc Stanley and several US government officials who visited the country recently raised their interests: energy, mining, petrochemicals, agribusiness, electromobility, the knowledge economy and tourism, trade integration, opening up new markets, the search for investment and quality employment.
At the same “summit”, the president of the Supreme Court of Justice, Horacio Rosatti, repeated the same slogan and objected to “the uncontrolled expansion of monetary issuance”, because it implies failing to comply with the constitutional mandate to defend the value of the currency.
The Secretary of Domestic Trade, Matías Tombolini, responded that authorised imports exceeded those of the previous year by 12%, and that trade was one of the highest in history. He also pointed to the role of the banks that helped the currency flight, a direct allusion to the president of AmCham, Facundo Gómez Minujín, who is also executive director of J.P. Morgan Argentina.
In times of crisis of representation, of separation between representatives and the represented, the power of bureaucracies, castes and corporations emerges, says analyst Juan Guahán. Faced with the hollowing out of popular participation, power points to a depoliticisation that deepens the transfer of power to technocratic sectors linked to global economic power and its institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation.
To these must be added a whole amalgam of international institutions created to try to influence, in the service of global economic power, the life of different territories (OAS) and sectors of humanity in the areas of health (WHO, PAHO); education, science and culture (Unesco); labour (ILO); among others.
Scanning these moments of crisis of hegemony, Antonio Gramsci indicated – in Notes on Machiavelli, on politics and the modern state – that they are situations where “the relative position of the power of the bureaucracy (civil and military), of high finance, of the Church and in general of all bodies relatively independent of the fluctuations of public opinion” is reinforced.
Incidentally, is it possible to conceive of an institution more alien to public opinion than the Supreme Court of Justice?
It’s politics, stupid
But the real problem in Argentina is that the persistence of inflation weakened the government, made possible the imbalance of powers in the face of the onslaught of the judicial corporation and complicated the choice of candidates in the two coalitions – the neoliberal Juntos por el Cambio and the pro-Front de Todos – something that should have had a smoother resolution.
Economy Minister Sergio Massa called for “putting politics in order to put the economy in order”. The truth is that this discursiveness inverts the terms of the causal relationship. The political disorder emerges from the economic mess that the administration of Alberto Fernández, with the help of the International Monetary Fund, has been able to deepen in the last three years, after the very serious crisis left by Macri’s neoliberalism. The chaos has once again manifested itself in the dramatic inflationary index.
Inflation first wore down the figure of the president, who withdrew his intention to run for re-election. But now it has also hit Massa’s aspirations head-on.
The crisis has also affected Argentina’s federalism, a dysfunctional model that was born with the military coup of 1955, which does not contribute to economic and social development, but no one dares to question it. Even the dictatorships waved it as a banner, which shows that, beyond the results, it is a factor that cuts across Argentina’s political culture, says César Tcach, director of the Master’s programme in Political Parties at the National University of Córdoba.
This economic crisis and the resulting social unrest also lie behind the reasons for the electoral resignation of two-time president and now vice-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. That resignation, after the failed assassination attempt on her life, appears like a ghost always on the verge of vanishing.
The only one to benefit from the whole scandal (or rather scandals) is Javier Milei, an ultra-right-winger, and his proposals for a free market and dollarisation of the economy, for the trafficking of human organs, and for the elimination of public education, which would be replaced by a system of “vouchers” for the poor to choose the public school they want to attend, in the best style of part of the US education system. Original indeed.
Milei’s cries on TV and radio are most in keeping with the level of uncertainty and anger bordering on hysteria that prevails in society and which are caused by the impossibility of foreseeing how much it will cost the next day to eat, dress and rent. The left? The only real left is the one on the streets, which is generally ignored by the media or repressed by the “forces of order”.