And then finally, she spoke. (Well, it wasn’t speaking so much as communicating, in this case through a written letter that was published on her personal website.)
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina’s current vice-president and the most important political actor in the country this week laid down her vision as to why were are facing a crisis of such magnitude (spoiler alert: it included a lot of blame thrown at former president Mauricio Macri), ultimately calling for a broad socio-political agreement to end “bi-monetarism.”
Macri was quick to pick up the glove, questioning the veep’s intentions, calling on the government to cease its “onslaught” on the Judiciary and to respect private property, while also conceding that his political space is open for constructive dialogue.
Beyond playing the blame game, both former presidents have given their blessing to an initial conversation that could work towards a broader social consensus that is a necessary but insufficient condition to put Argentina on a track toward sustainable development. It’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be allowed to go to waste.
Cristina’s letter, published on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the death of Néstor Kirchner, generated all sorts of interpretations. In her stubborn view of historical facts, CFK praised herself for handpicking Alberto Fernández to lead the electoral ticket in 2019 in order to avert another four years of Macrismo, during which the policy orientation preferred by the private sector would lead to an utter catastrophe. As she put it, there is an anti-Peronist prejudice among businessmen.
Acknowledging this, and their distaste for her personally, she stepped aside, “sacrificing the first magistracy to build a political coalition not only with those who sternly criticised our years in office but even with those who promised prison for Kirchnerites in public rallies or wrote and published books against [us].” In all her magnanimity, she added that “they will have to put in a good effort to find similar examples in Argentine history.” With that, she meant to confirm that not only did she pick Alberto to form an electoral coalition capable of dethroning Macri, but also that he is firmly in charge. “It is not factually possible for anyone’s opinion to count that isn’t the president’s at the time of taking decisions,” she said explicitly.
Cristina’s third and final point was related to the “external restrictions” caused by Argentina’s obsession with the dollar. Upon leaving the Casa Rosada, the ex-president noted, she left behind a solid economic foundation that included little debt, low unemployment, high coverage of the retirement system which paid out the highest pensions in the continent, low inflation and a necessary restriction on the market for dollars. Macri,. Fernández de Kirchner claims, flipped the country on its head by aligning itself with the “economic power factors” in Argentina, allowing them to go on a reckless binge of imports and capital flight, ultimately bringing in the International Monetary Fund to bankroll Macri’s failed re-election campaign. And yet, even this isn’t the cause for Argentina’s chronic bi-monetarism, she alleges.
“Argentina is that strange place where all theories die. Thus, the problem with a bi-monetary economy is, without a doubt, the gravest faced by our country, and its solution is impossible without an agreement that spans the entirety of the political, economic, media and social sectors of the Argentine Republic. Whether we like it or not, that is the truth and with it we can do anything but ignore it,” declared the VP.
There was still time for me. CFK suggested in passing that certain Cabinet members weren’t up to job, while effective, while saying that she’s not looking for impunity from corruption charges but for the Judiciary to function properly. In her closing paragraphs, she went on to thank Alberto for repatriating a bronze statue of her late husband from Ecuador and its now-defunct Unasur headquarters.
The letter generated all sorts of interpretations, spanning from absolute support of Alberto Fernández’s government administration to absolute dissociation with anything related to the president, leaving him hung out to dry ahead of an impending implosion of the Argentine economy. The president and his Cabinet came out to praise the letter, while Clarín and La Nación indicated it meant a break between Alberto and his VP. Members of the opposition, welcomed the letter but said it was the president who should call on them to start a constructive dialogue.
Macri, meanwhile, lashed out on Twitter, but ultimately agreed to meet under certain conditions: “I ratify [the stance of] Juntos por el Cambio and I have the will to sit down with the government for a public dialogue that respects the following: that we have the Constitution on the table, cease the onslaught on the judiciary, the Attorney General, the [Supreme] Court, and private property. We will always be available for dialogue to defend freedom and respect for law. We seek the construction of a development agenda that promotes job creation and production, open to the world in an intelligent manner.”
The ball is on everyone else’s court, so to speak. Cristina and Mauricio have officially given their blessing for their respective political spaces to have an open and frank dialogue. While they personally despise each other and consider the other to be the root of all evil, they have told their generals to get to work. That means the likes of Alberto Fernández and maybe Horacio Rodríguez Larreta have to build the structure that will allow for these conversations to begin, strengthening efforts that could ultimately lead to a sort of armistice between anti-Peronists and the government. This would be extremely valuable. Economy Minister Martín Guzmán is trying to tame the wild dollar, and he’s having some level of success, albeit at a high price (in dollars).
Unity, in whatever form, would be a valuable contribution.