Argentina: Government Seeks Identity between “Friendly Fire” and Radicals

By Juan Guahán, on February 16, 2020

The new government of Alberto Fernandez is seeking its identity while trying to avoid or dampen the “friendly fire”. This is the way it is approaching more radical tendencies that supported him while the negotiations over “debt”, the issue of “political prisoners” and tension between the national and Buenos Aires governments unfolds.

The national government is trying to establish itself, set its goals, draw up its government plans and move in a new direction by differentiating itself from other previous experiences. This week there was a reason of joy a slowing of the inflation rate to 2.3% in January. The celebration took place in spite of two limitations, one of which has to do with the fact that the food basket  recepients remained high (4.7%).  He also gave good news to 75% of the retirees -who receive the minimum allowance- and the beneficiaries of the Universal Children’s Allowance (AUH) which got an increase of 13%, above what was foreseen by the previous law of “retirement mobility”, the rest of the retirees will have an income lower than that of the said law.

The government coalition is trying to go its own way. Within the accumulation of interests -not always coincidental- that make it up, Alberto Fernández is trying to achieve hegemony. He has the advantage of being the one who occupies the highest step of a deeply presidential system. Therefore, his actions have an added value that no other person can count on in these next four years. At the same time he has the problem that the most representative figure and the one who will nominate to be president is Cristina, his current vice president. That is a big problem!

In any institution, all the more so when it comes to the government of a country, it is logical that no one can aspire to have 100% of their ideas adopted. The issue is to prevent non-agreements from being transformed into opposing policies and for them to cut across the main aspects of government because they can weaken the totality of management.

Faced with this many problems, there are a number of issues that cannot be ignored. One is the fact that most of the political actors in the coalition are trying to keep “the blood out of the river” by showing unity and trying to prevent differences from taking shape. In any case, there are many who fear that the fable of the “scorpion and the frog” will become a reality, this one – at the scorpion’s request – pretending to help him moves him from one place to another to save him but the scorpion halfway through stings him, because this is in his nature, even if it harms both of them. Second, “albertism” does not resign its goal of achieving internal hegemony of the ruling coalition. Third, this situation plus the personal characteristics of its protagonists leads to the fact that Alberto has -from the first day- made friendly gestures towards some radical sectors. This policy is accompanied, at times promoted, by Sergio Massa, President of the Chamber of Deputies. The repeated mention of Alberto to Raúl Alfonsín and the appointment of his son Ricardo to the Spanish embassy, strengthens the idea of this approach to opposition bands. This perspective grows when “friendly fire” (criticism or attacks from other coalition members) questions some of their policies.

Debt Negotiation

On this subject, which is crucial for the present times and whose outcome is absolutely open, different perspectives have been expressed. It is well known that our country is unable to meet its financial commitments as demanded by two bodies: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the bond-holding bankers.

In these matters, it was Cristina who put the first conditions in place by warning of the need for a removal, prohibited by the IMF’s statutes. Cristina warned them that it was also forbidden “to use the Fund’s general resources to meet a substantial or continuous outflow of capital”. Alberto quickly adhered to that position, avoiding opening a complex internal gap in the middle of the negotiations.

On this subject, Cristina’s positions, although at considerable distances, try to be closer than what Peronism has maintained throughout history. This is so beyond those days of non-payment and the previous investigation to determine the legitimate debt! They are not part of the baggage of the current coalition.

The issue of Political Prisoners

Vast sectors of the Peronist movement are putting pressure on Alberto so that Peronist officials who have been tried or convicted on charges of corruption can regain their freedom. This demand comes – in general – from sectors that support Cristina, although she does not usually push them personally. Governor Axel Kicillof and Máximo Kirchner, President of the Bloc of officialdom legislators, figures to be closely linked to Cristina, have expressed themselves in this direction and contrary to what Alberto and his Chief of Staff say. From these different positions, the aim is to prevent differences from continuing to escalate, and work is being done to ensure that the cases, of the people involved, are brought before the Supreme Court of Justice and that the latter, invoking a “Lawfare”, which is the use of the law and legal procedures as a weapon of war and its effect, the existence of vast procedural errors, grants them their freedom.

Short Circuits between National and Buenos Aires governments

A fluid relationship between the national and Buenos Aires governments is indispensable, even more so when it comes to governments of the same political persuasion. Nearly 40% of the country’s total population lives in the capitol and the same territory shelters the exuberant wealth of the humid pampas together with the depressing poverty of Buenos Aires.

In this relationship there were a couple of demonstrations and problems that they tried to hide but that are there. Let us remember that Governor Kicillof has a fundamental characteristic: he only reports to Cristina. Neither Alberto, nor the powerful mayors of the conurbation form the fundamental input for his decision making.

More complex is the situation raised by the issue of security. It is interesting to note that the security policy of Buenos Aires – led by the ineffable doctor and retired lieutenant colonel Sergio Berni – has several points of contact with the previous management and the security forces, which are nationally displayed by Sabina Frederic, Minister of Security, identified with more progressive and guaranteeing positions. These public differences demanded a meeting between the President and the Governor of Buenos Aires and then of both officials. Those meetings ended in the “white smoke” of an agreement that cracked again before the smoke cleared. The serious thing about this case is that these contradictions occur on a very sensitive issue such as security, which is constantly being stirred up by the press. Hence the public importance of this problem.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano,  translation North America bureau