Buenos Aires Weather | Return(s) to the future in the (very) tense present
As it still looms on the horizon, Argentina’s economic crisis is becoming less and less asymptomatic, with inflation forecasts for this year moving ever closer to triple digits, while the Central Bank is showing the biggest quasi-fiscal deficit since the collapse of 2001-2002 (although the fiscal deficit remains within the parameters of the International Monetary Fund for now, with the help of creative accounting). And yet the political world has yet to come up with answers to this urgent and central question with no reasonable or even unreasonable plan in sight – thus a freeze lost ground in technical and symbolic terms last week with the resignation of the Secretary to the domestic trade Roberto Feletti, while President Alberto Fernández ditched plans to mark last Wednesday’s National Day in Antarctica in favor of the more traditional Te Deum in that capital.
Instead of seeking consensus to deal with this looming national emergency, the political spectrum is increasingly fragmented at different levels – whether in ideological approaches, electoral strategies or issue choices – with the today’s radical national convention in the provincial capital of Buenos Aires, La Plata, a case in point. Within a precariously united Juntos por el Cambio opposition coalition, the radicals have their own factional divisions – a traditional line under the party’s provincial governors, a more technocratic wing under Senator Martín Lousteau and the 21st century vision of the ambitious neurosurgeon Facundo Manes. At the tactical level, the radicals are at a crossroads: do they cling to the opposition Juntos por el Cambio within the Grieta polarization or are they aiming for the happy medium by fishing out independent voters and weaning moderate Peronists from the Kirchnerian rump of the ruling coalition, like Mauricio Macri’s 2019 running mate, Miguel Angel Pichetto (not that Pichetto favors the radical red within the opposition palette), especially if their PRO partners continue to lean to the right to take up the challenge of Javier Milei’s libertarians?
The combination of internal divisions and an uncertain future conspires against any consensus of opposition to the economic plan openly disavowed by President Fernández. In the absence of a plan, the political debate concentrates around an agenda of questions such as the single ballot and the Council of the Judiciary which, whatever their institutional importance, only increase the distance separating the political class from a increasingly contemptuous population.
Meanwhile, the government is schizophrenic even in its disunity. On the one hand, Feletti’s resignation sends a very clear message: when the going gets tough, the toughest (in the person of the Kirchnerite wing of the ruling coalition) get on with it – in the opposite direction, to to build a future without the burden of any responsibility for current failures. But on the other hand, the unfavorable course of events is increasing the pressure on President Fernández to include the other wings of the Frente de Todos in the more executive aspects of the executive instead of pursuing his own ideas on the economic or international policies with its own hand-picked ministers. In other words, as Feletti walks out the door, Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Congress President Sergio Massa (both of whom aspire to accompany an increasingly isolated President Fernández at the helm of the decision making) would each like to see their own choice of officials enter.
The crisis remains asymptomatic for now with strong consumption growth recorded for the first quarter and IMF endorsement of fiscal performance so far, but winter is only three weeks away and changes may well be more than seasonal as crop export dollars decline and energy import bills rise, abruptly altering the trade balance – and with it the supply of dollars on which the economy is so well based. more than face currency (despite the new note designs announced last week). Most of the general public is only too aware of the situation (or at least the inflation), but is there a chance that today’s national convention in La Plata or that the political world in general take this into account?
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