June 19, 2013
Riders on the storm
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is now insistently using her public appearances to drive home the message that Argentina is riding a storm in the middle of a “crumbling world,” and indeed there are plenty of negative headlines out there that show that global capitalism is going through a nasty identity crisis (the latest is the Barclays rate-fixing scandal in Britain, which was somehow ignored on the front pages of many Buenos Aires newspapers yesterday). It’s no surprise that the President is urging the public to pay attention to what is going on abroad when a local slowdown seems to be looming in the horizon. Fernández de Kirchner is no different to most politicians in trying to find an excuse to deal with a problematic year. The problem is that the ‘crumbling world‘ excuse does not explain an increasingly difficult local context, including cash-strapped Buenos Aires province halting public works due to lack of funds, the picketing by renegade construction workers in Chubut, the outcry in the town of Cañuelas over two murdered brothers, and now a potential police mutiny in Santa Cruz (the President’s home province in Patagonia). It’s difficult to find any connection in the latent crisis in Santa Cruz, until recently an oil-rich province that held at least 500 million dollars in reserves and was considered Kirchnerite paradise, with any of the problems faced by the world economy, including the pains of the euro and the culture of greed that landed Barclays in trouble.
Even if the President’s favourite excuse, that the world is a hostile economic place at the moment, does hold some truth, the brewing internal power struggle in the Peronist party between Kirchnerite loyalists and Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli is very much made in Argentina. So is a similar brawl about to unfold in the CGT labour confederation between truck driver Hugo Moyano, now at odds with the President, and a group of big unions that still support the national government.
At best, Fernández de Kirchner is engaging in a bit of harmless tactical time wasting. Presumably, it will only last until the time comes to meet debt obligations later this year, including the cancellation of the Boden 2012 debt bond next month (worth about 2.3 billion dollars). The President must be aware that she can’t rant her way through her mandate and blame the eurozone crisis for everything that can go wrong in Argentina between now and 2015.