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OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 06-06-2022 16:38

The hand that moves the pen

At the YPF event at Tecnópolis fronted by President Alberto Fernández and Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, it was very clear that progress in mending the rift within the government was conspicuous by its absence.

The novel of meetings and misunderstandings between the president and his vice-president, a grotesque figure who seems to have stepped out of one of songs by Pimpinela, added a new chapter on Friday and Saturday which – as though it could not be otherwise – did not change the substance of the matter at all. 

Alberto Fernández and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner met again after 95 days without seeing each other's faces at the celebration of YPF's 100th anniversary. It was a paradoxical celebration: praise, history and false pride for the state-owned energy company in the midst of a diesel crisis affecting at least eight provinces that complicate supply and production. Nothing to celebrate. Yet another example of Kirchnerism in its purest form: narrative and lies.

The protagonist was, as it always is, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. It was her and her history. Hubris syndrome in all its dimensions. To that can be added her intention to cause harm, something irrepressible in the vice-president. Her critical allusion to Techint – a few weeks after the president’s dinner with its owner, Paolo Rocca – was a projectile aimed at torpedoing the negotiations aimed at securing the supply of the pipes necessary for the construction of the Néstor Kirchner gas pipeline, through which the president is also seeking to rebuild his relationship with the business sector.

The vice-president's reproaches were the same as always. Progress in mending the rift within the government was conspicuous by its absence. Each of them ratified their positions and called for unity with a coldness that was felt both on the stage and in the stalls. The sullen faces of the ministers and secretaries who had to endure the event said everything. The one who best reflected the prevailing tedium at Tecnópolis was Defence Minister Jorge Taiana, who succumbed and fell into a sleep that, as the TV cameras showed, seemed deep.

"Learn to value patience. We have been asking for changes for a long time and they don't listen to us. We have already stated our position, if the other side continues to ignore us there will be no possible solution. We ask for a change of players and they respond to us with their empowerment, if they want to die with theirs, let them do it, but they will not drag us into their failure", they fired off from the Instituto Patria. The strategy of hard-line Kirchnerism is actually being maintained because there are not many options left. Alberto Fernández's stubbornness has left them breathless.

Faced with so many denials and lies, on the other side of the Frente de Todos Contra Todos they have learned not to keep quiet. One of the responses to CFK's spiel was a direct attack on La Cámpora, the employment agency for its members who, under the umbrella of a discourse with ideology and militancy, use public funds to live well and build power. Referring to the phrase that the vice-president said to the president – "I already told Alberto to use his pen well" – Albertismo argued that those who had not used the pen well were the officials of IEASA, the acronym for Integración Energética Argentina Sociedad Anónima, which recently changed its name back to ENARSA, Energía Argentina Sociedad Anónima. Ieasa, which was in charge of the bidding process for the gas pipeline, is managed by officials who answer to CFK. Finally, in the bidding documents for the tender, it was stated that the sheet metal to be used had to be 33 millimetres thick. This sheet metal is manufactured by Techint in Brazil. "It seemed like a tender made to measure for Rocca's company," said a source in the Casa Rosada, without euphemism. At the point of closing this column, the political consequences of this ‘off-the-record’ briefing reproduced by the Productive Development Ministry was that it had just cost its head, Matías Kulfas, his job. 

The president has empowered Economy Minister Martín Guzmán and his team. He is determined to ratify the course ahead while CFK repeats to anyone who will listen that "Guzmán is finished." The same goes for the president of the Central Bank, Miguel Pesce, for whom she has no intellectual respect. In the light of what happened with Kulfas, it remains to be seen how much longer they can hold out. The clearer, the more water. The hand that moves the pen is that of CFK.

In the midst of this disappointment, there is agreement that the next three months will be the window for the economic team to show results, at least in containing the escalation of inflation. It’s something that seems rather utopian, with the few tools that those in charge of piloting the storm have at their disposal. What will the president do if the targets are not met? There is no answer: will he hand over Guzmán and Pesce when the hourglass is calling for a 180-degree turn? Perhaps that is the president's sweetest revenge. To cede power when there is no more time to manoeuvre. That is what keeps the former acting president awake at night.  

The shouts of an abashed Dr Fernández at the lacklustre inauguration of the Cañuelas bypass – part of the project to transform Ruta Nacional 3 into a motorway – which is only 9.6 kilometres long, marked the start of the election campaign. He resorted, therefore, to the campaign manual of the ruling party, which indicates that Mauricio Macri must be put in the ring. It is the "Ah, but Macri" that they used in 2021 and which failed. In that intemperate speech the president spoke of the "white-collar thieves" who are not being investigated by the justice system. Errant in his management and in his speech, he did not realise that, after all, he was talking about himself, the man who was a legal advisor to businessman Cristóbal López, who stands accused of evading eight billion pesos in taxes and has just been sentenced to pay a personal property tax debt of 156 million pesos.

Nelson Castro

Nelson Castro

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