President Alberto Fernández headed tributes to the late Néstor Kirchner on the 11th anniversary of the former head of state’s death this week, using the commemoration to ramp up his rhetoric against the International Monetary Fund.
The Peronist leader, who is due to attend the G20 Leaders Summit in Rome this weekend, warned that if no agreement has yet been reached with the IMF that is because the country "will not go down on its knees" before the multilateral lender. The president conditioned an agreement to renegotiate a debt of US$44 billion on "not risking the future of the Argentines."
"If we still have not sealed a deal [with the IMF], it’s because we won’t go down on our knees, because we will keep on negotiating until our people see no risk for their future in paying the debt," he proclaimed, paying tribute to Kirchner, who led Argentina for a single term between 2003 and 2007.
"We know that many in Argentina have been left behind and are suffering, and we are the first to worry about that. In Avellaneda a comrade said to me: ´President, I beg you not to go down on your knees,’” claimed Fernández.
"How do they imagine the negotiations with creditors to be? They think that there are no pressures. Instead of asking to me to rush the agreement with the IMF, why don’t they ask the Fund to assume responsibility for giving Argentina an unpayable debt? I don’t see that in any newspaper," he emphasised.
The only orator at the Deportivo Morón Stadium, which was packed with militants in Greater Buenos Aires, Fernández evoked Kirchner, who, after taking office with Argentina in default, renegotiated a debt of almost US$100 billion with private creditors and early in 2006 paid off a debt of US$9.8 billion with the IMF.
Surrounded by governors, ministers, candidates and the top brass of Frente de Todos, the president recalled his predecessor, expressing: "Néstor, you definitely live on in each and every one of us. I had the enormous privilege of being your Cabinet chief and I remember every moment. Néstor is a guide for us all and he’s the light we all follow because we had the good fortune to see that extraordinary president. You must be occupying the best spot in Heaven."
Fernández traced parallels with Kirchner, recalling that when the Santa Cruz governor came to power, "he had to put the country back on its feet after it had been socially hurt by the Alliance government."
"They said: ´Begone with them all,´ but we’re not all the same. Only some were the causes of that decay," assured the president.
At the rally, Fernández called on the IMF "to take responsibility for the damage they did" in 2018 when granting the 2015-2019 Mauricio Macri administration a record loan of US$57 billion, of which Argentina has received US$44 billion.
Speaking of the Macri government, the president claimed that it fell into "neo-liberal policies just like the Alliance,” maintaining: "They went to ask the IMF for assistance and it ended up being our ruin."
When taking office in late 2019, Fernández waived the pending tranches.
"I’m going to fight and confront whoever and whatever necessary and I’m going to settle with the Fund the day that I know it will not condition the future of every Argentine. I say that with the conviction I say it because I had an extraordinary teacher," said the Frente de Todos leader.
Addressing the militants and after interrupting his speech several times to request medical attention for people stricken by the heat, the president spoke about inflation, affirming: "It worries me more than it worries you. It has no other explanation than speculation. There is no problem of printing money here, the money supply is climbing much less than inflation. You know what it is? The concentration of production and price-fixing by a few operators, against which a stand must be taken because this cannot go on, because it’s not fair."
He also referred to statements by City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and other opposition leaders on inflation, pointing out: "Now they have realised what terrible things they have been saying and are starting to talk about the concentration of food production."
Argentina, which is beginning to show signs of recovery after over three years of recession aggravated by the pandemic, is seeking to replace the 2018 stand-by agreement with an extended fund facility.
Between capital and interest, it stands to pay some US$19.341 billion next year, US$19.589 billion in 2023 and 4.936 million in 2024, according to Economy Ministry estimates.
On November 14 midterm elections are due, crucial for the Fernández government which is aspiring to recover from a heavy defeat suffered in last month’s primaries.