Reactions to the attempt on Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s life at the start of this month span all the extremes – from the sublime to the ridiculous in its origins with its roots elevated to a vast conspiracy encompassing the mainstream opposition, the judicial system, the media and even the United States Embassy at one end, while at the other end it is reduced to a lone wolf or trivialised to a candy floss gang. Nor is a more detached perspective free from these extremes – the attack can be equally ascribed to individual psychiatric disorders or a truly global problem of the exclusion of millions, if not billions of people.
Such are the extremes but the majority reaction until now has been, rather surprisingly, that it was staged by the victim herself to regain public sympathy at the start of her corruption trial – serious opinion polls consistently show slightly over half of respondents thinking this way while one survey polled as high a percentage as 62, a theory apparently more prevalent in the general population than in the anti-Kirchnerite establishment. Most of the evidence emerging in the past fortnight works against this spin but while the truism of the people always being right can be carried to extremes, the people are not stupid either and there were various factors lending credibility to the majority mistrust of a systematically sceptical population – the circumstantial aspect of the target laying claim to the image of a martyr without actually being a martyr already triggers suspicions, only reinforced by the government’s unfortunate decision to ignore the opportunity for statesmanlike national unity against violence in favour of crass political opportunism (the gratuitous public holiday, the marches, the volleys of accusations against the “hate speech” opposition, the courts and the media). All reasonable enough without feeding in the vast appetite for conspiracy theories of a frustrated population facing constant economic turmoil and runaway price hikes.
Yet almost everything emerging since counters this perhaps too obvious interpretation, serving to raise rather than answer questions – the inexplicable erasure of the contents of the assailant’s mobile telephone perhaps heading the list, the absence of the vice-president’s chief bodyguard on the day of the attack and too many other questions for this space. At the same time the bizarre and swiftly deleted tweet of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s lawyer Gregorio Dalbón as to the attack coming from her “own ranks” seemed to serve ammunition to the theory of a staged stunt but it could equally well refer to Frente de Todos infighting.
Yet this attack should serve to place the famous grieta rift in a new light. Instead of being viewed as an unbridgeable gap between two political sides, the chasm should be seen as the millions who find no place in the two opposing coalitions or even society as a whole. And here we enter into global and social rather than national and political problems. Alienation was placed on the world map at least six decades ago by the 1957 Nobel Prize awarded to L’étranger (“The Stranger”) by Albert Camus and by Frantz Fanon’s book Les Damnés de la Terre (“The Wretched of the Earth”) in 1961. Accelerated by pandemic and technological change, it is a truly global problem. The famous quote of 1971 Nobel Economics Prize winner Simon Kuznets: “There are four kinds of countries in the world: developed, undeveloped, Japan and Argentina” would seem to define the latter two as opposites yet just eight weeks before the Recoleta attack here Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, was assassinated by a loonie Moonie.
Should analysts stop staring into political navels and start asking how many potential anti-system assailants there might be among alienated, resentful youth denied social mobility, the answer would be frightening – the “ni ni” (youth who neither study nor work) alone number over 1.5 million. Some comparisons have been made with the insurgent youth of the 1970s but these generally had more comfortable middle-class origins with their motivation not so much social alienation as ideology and also a political response to the 1955 coup followed by the 1956 executions of Peronist rebels.
Last but not least, amid all the structural analysis, let us not ignore the cyclical – perhaps factors like the acceleration of inflation marked by the seven percent August figure posted on Wednesday was what tipped the deeper causes over the edge.