May 23, 2013
The Easter spirit
By Michael Soltys
Buenos Aires Herald Senior Editor
If President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s speech marking the 30th anniversary of the Malvinas war was preceded by speculation in some quarters that an outburst of patriotic frenzy would lead to a parallel extreme nationalism in announcing the nationalization of YPF, could the converse prove true now that her message turned out to breathe a pacifism uncontaminated by any oil grab — is there a possibility of her basically (if not wholly) peaceful approach to the Malvinas spilling over into the YPF front? Ironically enough, almost her first Malvinas speech of this anniversary year not to quote John Lennon on “give peace a chance” was perhaps the closest in spirit to that sentiment. Somewhat like her February 7 speech (also preceded by hawkish forecasts of a total blockade of the islands), CFK thus gains the moral high ground, which has more than moral advantages. Quite apart from the lack of other options. Sabre-rattling generally needs a sabre to rattle and not even a slightly paranoid British Ministry of Defence believes in a serious Argentine military threat. And if diplomacy is the continuation of war by other means (to rephrase Clausewitz), CFK’s Foreign Ministry does not give her much coherent strategy to work with.
Turning to YPF, the multi-million-dollar question is whether the current hiatus is a tactical or strategic pause. Is the momentum towards nationalization irreversible, boosted by both last weekend’s reports in pro-government media and Chubut revoking the concession of a major oilfield (as opposed to the largely exhausted areas reclaimed by the provinces until then) — is it simply a question of working out the details for the expected Congress bill and perhaps waiting for a few more days of 15 percent-plus share plunges (like yesterday) to drive down the price yet further? Or is the price of acquiring this potential white elephant still daunting for a fiscally strapped government despite the greater flexibility of Central Bank reserves and world soy prices topping 500 dollars?
Yet while memories of the Pope huddling amicably with Cuba’s Castro brothers are still fresh, Easter week seems the right time to be optimistic that CFK’s Malvinas serenity can rub off into other areas — a moral high ground which is also sanely pragmatic. If the 1982 war is often viewed as the Leopoldo Galtieri junta seeking a distraction from political and economic problems, CFK has given herself the chance for a vastly superior distraction from the failings of mere politics and the growing economic complications — namely, a display of statesmanship.