Is Argentina really on track to become the next Venezuela?

Is Argentina really on track to become the next Venezuela?

Cristina Kirchner, Mauricio Macri and the fear of becoming like Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela. Photo: Joaquín Temes

Is Argentina really on track to become the next Venezuela? The argument, which has been repeated since at least Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s second term in office, has taken on renewed vigour as of late, given a string of actions by the Alberto Fernández administration that have been taken by some in the opposition as an encroachment into individual freedoms and constitutional rights. Mauricio Macri has hinted at this in recent columns and social media posts, while his handpicked president for his PRO party, Patricia Bullrich, hasn’t stopped from chanting the refrain.

By ForbesAgustino Fontevecchia

Sep 28, 2020

Within the ruling Frente de Todos coalition, there hasn’t been a direct response to this line of criticism, despite ample media participation by several high-ranking officials in the government, including the president and his Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero, who consistently attempt to rebuke the opposition with irony, satire, and a little maliciousness as well.

The suggestion that we are turning into Venezuela is part of a cultural war that has pitted Kirchnerites and anti-Peronists against each other at least since 2008, when a large section of society broke with the political model championed by Néstor Kirchner, which had expired. Up until then, the Kirchners had counted on the support of ample sectors of society who had seen Argentina recover from its 2001 implosion, effectively growing at “Chinese rates” while enjoying fiscal and commercial surpluses. Clarín, the largest and strongest media group in the country, smiled upon Néstor as he approved the fusion of Cablevisión and Multicanal, giving the company run by Héctor Magnetto essentially a monopoly, as well as the capacity to become immensely rich. That year, 2008, was also when soy prices peaked, as the global financial crisis that began with the collapse of Lehman Brothers (it was actually Bear Sterns that started it all) began to send shockwaves throughout the global economy.

Curiously enough, with Cristina by then in the Casa Rosada and with an economic model that had run out of steam, a confrontation with the agricultural sector over export taxes led to an all-out war between the Kirchnerites and their enemies. Cristina’s confrontational style played well to her narrative pitting “us” against “them,” which allowed a critical mass of “Cristina-haters” to eventually vote her out of office, bringing in Macri to replace them.

The Kirchners’ close relationship with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez was part of the broader ‘pink tide’ of populist leftists who took power throughout Latin America, which also coincided with US decadence on the back of failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the White House occupied by an unpopular and uncharismatic leader (George W. Bush). It all added to the myth, along with the suitcases filled with petrodollars with which Comandante Chávez financed Mrs. Fernández de Kirchner’s second presidential campaign. A firm and authoritative control of both houses of Congress, along with the complete alignment of the Judiciary, and the media crusade against Clarín marked the “vamos por todo” (“we want it all”) ethos of the later Cristina years.

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