As you know, this is Argentina,
it is very difficult to know what is going to happen.
(Jorge Lanata, March 28, 2021)
Last March 24 marked the 45th anniversary of the coup d'état and the beginning of the military regime in 1976 in Argentina which lasted until 1983. The civil-military dictatorship led the country to barbarism and genocide, leaving around 30 thousand dead, tortured, disappeared, exiled, and children of murdered political prisoners kidnapped. Generals Jorge R. Videla, Eduardo Viola, Leopoldo F. Galtieri and Reynaldo Bignone were the main responsible for the State terrorism exercised in that country and for having led Argentina to war with the UK by occupying the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands in 1981. All four were convicted by the courts, Videla and Bignone died in prison, while Viola and Galtieri passed away in freedom, before the Supreme Court declared null and void the amnesty granted by former President Carlos Menem in 1990.
Argentina experienced six coups d'état during the 20th century. In 1930, 1943, 1955, 1962, 1966 and 1976, democratic institutions were interrupted by the rise of conservative military leaders influenced by the Catholic Church, the United States national security policy, the effect of the Cuban revolution in Latin America and the strong guerrilla outbreaks in Argentina since the 1960s. It is difficult to understand Argentina's political history without knowing what Juan Domingo Perón represented, who governed the country on three occasions (1946-52, 1952-55 and 1973-74) and whose presence covers the entire political history from the second half of the 20th century to the present day. The so-called "Peronism" left a deep mark on society and politics because of its successes, but also because of its failures. Among the former are the industrialization process, the generation of jobs, the consolidation of a welfare state that continues to this day, equal rights, unionization and many others that have become part of the identity and pride of Argentines.
Among the failures, critics point out that the economic transformations were not sufficiently solid to achieve industrial integration and break the dependence on imports. Agricultural exports continued to be the main source of foreign exchange. Peronism was presented as a sort of third way between capitalism and socialism in the wake of the Cold War, but without a theoretical and economic conception that would give long-term sustainability to industrial development. In reality, the main criticism is of the populist character of the Peronist governments and the ideological confusion into which their followers fell, even generating the Montoneros guerrilla movement, which proclaimed armed struggle and socialism. Peronism is still alive today, even though Perón once said that he was no longer a Peronist. There are still right-wing and left-wing Peronists, as have been former presidents Carlos Menem and Néstor Kirchner, to name a few.
It is difficult to follow Argentine politics and to understand it in depth even more. A rich country of 2,780,400 kms2, i.e. 9.2 times the size of Italy, with only 45 million inhabitants, of which 18 million live in greater Buenos Aires. It is part of the G-20, despite the fact that its GDP is lower than that of countries such as Switzerland or the Netherlands and that it has macroeconomic imbalances, chronic structural problems, reflected in the bailout that had to be carried out by the IMF in 2018: US$ 45 billion - the largest amount in its history- were injected, which Argentina must finish paying in 2024 with the corresponding interest.
Inflation has been among the highest in the world and for the current year is estimated to reach 50%, while the poverty line reached 40.9% of the population in the first half of 2020, according to the State Institute of Statistics. It is in this economic framework in which the current president Alberto Fernández, who has been in power for only 15 months, must make policy, seeking balances that give stability to the country after 4 years of the right-wing government of former president Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) and 12 years of left-wing governments of former presidents Néstor Kirchner (2003-07) and then of his wife, Cristina Fernández K. (2007-15).
The current President has the past President as Vice-President, who voted for his election and who has not ceased to exert her influence on particularly sensitive issues such as the corruption trials against her, which do not leave her in peace. This is one of the reasons for the growing deterioration of the relationship between the Head of State and his Vice President or “Mrs. K”, as she is called, who is also a senator, which guarantees her immunity. After more than a year of government, relations between the two have become more strained due to Cristina's undisputed power in the government and among Peronist voters. According to Argentine political insiders, President Fernandez must hold a 5-legged table to maintain the precarious stability: managing the foreign debt issue that burdens the country and that today is impossible to pay; the inflation that forces to print more and more money in a vicious circle; maintain the unity of the forces that support him; fight the pandemic that threatens to get out of control and contain the Vice-President who advances in the control of the agenda. For another analyst, the situation between the two will only worsen due to the sword of Damocles hanging over Mrs. K's head and where the President can hardly intervene to free her from the charges of justice that seem to tighten the circle. Cristina's strength lies in her undoubted popularity among a large part of the voters, and she has begun to impose her vision and priorities on the President.
The former President Mauricio Macri - the first non-Peronist Head of State to complete his term - after four years of a disastrous government that ended up sinking the economy, sees his electoral possibilities reborn in the face of the paralysis of the government, which seems to want to return to the practices and policies left behind by history. "The crack" they call the division that widens between the world or vision of Mrs. K and that of the former president, while the acting President seems to return to being a chief of staff. Making an analogy with the Freudian theory of "killing the father", it is time for Fernández to do it with Mrs. K and, by the way, put an end to the clan once and for all, before they eat him up.
Although the power and the shadow of K are great, a brave decision can affirm him in Peronism and impose his good ideas and way of governing, which he certainly has. Faced with the dilemma of subordination or rupture, the Head of State should put the interests of Argentina first and turn in his favor the Peronist people and others who voted for him to govern. For all these reasons and many others, it is very difficult to know what is happening and where this great country that is Argentina, is headed.