When Sergio Massa took over the Ministry of Economy last August, he had a mandate. In those days, the Government of the Frente de Todos was mired in confusion. Martín Guzmán had resigned suddenly, Cristina Kirchner and Alberto Fernández were involved in a public conflict and the minister – at the time interim – Silvina Batakis was facing a strong currency run and skyrocketing inflation rates. To say that she was on the edge of the precipice did not sound exaggerated.
In this context, Massa’s mandate was clear: he would receive superpowers (concentrating portfolios) and the support of all the wings of Peronism to try to order the disaster. If he succeeded, he would have a prize: after so many failures and internships, he would remain as the natural candidate of the space for the 2023 presidential elections.
195 days after that assumption, the situation is, however, more ambiguous. This Thursday the demanded – by Kirchnerism and other sectors – political table of the Frente de Todos will finally meet, but crossed by more unknowns than certainties.
When surrounded by distrust, Albertistas, Kirchneristas, Massistas and other members of Peronism meet, they must evaluate the situation, their electoral perspectives and their internal disputes.
It’s true. If they opt for a self-congratulatory look, they will be able to congratulate themselves that Massa, for now, managed to avoid an uncontrolled devaluation that would put an end to any future perspective of this pan-Peronist experience. After all, they will be able to shout, like Héctor Alterio in Wild horses, that it is worth being alive. In any case, there were sectoral devaluations (dollar soybean 1 and 2 – is the 3 coming?) and uncertainty persists, given the low level of reserves, about the immediate future for the coming months (“bomb” that Together for the Change seeks to detonate during the election year). The policy of taking rabbits out of the hat and tying everything up with wire is an eternal step by step.
The most realistic, however, should also see the glass half empty. The massista bet comes from receiving a very hard blow to his center of gravity. This Tuesday, INDEC reported the inflation rate for January, which resulted in 6%, showing two serious problems. The first of these is that the slowdown trend that had started in November and had already been questioned in December was reversed. The second and most serious: Massa had promised that in April the inflation number “would start with a 3 ahead”, and that perspective seems increasingly difficult to fulfill. If the very serious problem of inflation, which was 95% in 2022, does not appear to be resolved, the situation will be increasingly complex for the minister’s electoral future. And the inflationary nature of the agreement with the IMF does not augur an easy future in this regard.
It is not only about numbers, but about the credentials that will be shown for the electoral battle. If stability is a value, especially weighted in certain sectors of society, the truth is that making ends meet is an even more important problem for millions. Difficult to dispute such important elections talking about the Supreme Court or promising a better economic future from the hand of Vaca Muerta or lithium for the coming years. Too much extractivism to sound progressive. Too much empty talk for those who don’t get to pay hoy food, rent or supplies for the children in the new school year. In this frame, If the electoral dispute has not yet been decided, it is because the opposition right is also mired in its own and internal crises.
The problem that will cross the table of the Frente de Todos is that For an official party, the story cannot be detached so much from the material reality of the country it governs, without becoming implausible. That is why Alberto Fernández’s recurring statements appear increasingly detached from reality, with tones that vary between delarruescos and “meme mode”. In recent weeks, the president has been heard talking about “self-constructed inflation” that “is in people’s heads”; say that “Where is the adjustment? I don’t know, I can’t find it”; or that “Argentina in the last 2 years is the second country that grew the most in the world”.
In the opinion of this column, it should not be taken very seriously. Although he says that he will run for re-election, he seems to be almost a former president who is fighting his balance for history (if he does not pass into almost oblivion in a very short time, “history” is a word that is sometimes too big).
Cristina Kirchner had another look. After being sentenced -in a manipulated and partial trial that did not seek to combat the corruption that undoubtedly existed- in the road case, she announced that she would not be a candidate for anything in 2023. Although there is still an operational clamor from sectors of Peronism to reverse that decision , the strategic option seems to be taken by the conviction of trying to avoid being held responsible for an electoral defeat of Peronism, both because of the difficulty of separating from the balance of a Government that she herself created by electing Alberto Fernández, and because of the corruption accusations themselves. that would be used against you. If it is to lose, cheer up and go. Or “take the marshal’s baton”, as she put it in a more elegant way in December at a ceremony in Avellaneda.
This analysis by Cristina Kirchner has deep causes. In the nonsense of Alberto Fernández there is a part of the truth, which nevertheless hides the essential. The national economy, it is true, recovered growth (which is now slowing down due to the adjustment itself), but at the same time poverty and the drop in income increased. In other words: in 2022 the country produced almost the same as in 2015 but with 23% lower wages. Employment is created, yes, but precarious, and inflation deteriorates income.
As detailed by Luis Campos, from the Observatory of Social Law of the CTA – Autonomous, between 2015 and 2022 formal workers accumulate a loss of 23.2% in their purchasing power. But it is not only the Macrista inheritance: registered wage earners ended the last year with salaries 2.8% lower than those of 2021, while in the same period retirement assets decreased by 4.7%. For unregistered wage earners the situation is even worse, since they have lost 15.6% compared to December 2019.
Seen with other data, the reality is that Those who cannot cover their basic needs (taking the baskets prepared by INDEC as a parameter) went from being 28.6% of the population in 2017 to 36.5% in 2022. Those who could not even access a minimum diet in turn went from 6.2% to 8.8%.
In this context, with Cristina having declined her candidacy and Alberto speaking for the balance, who has the ball now is Massa. The “natural candidate” of Peronism, whom almost all the wings of space claim to lead, delays his confirmation. “It is incompatible to be a candidate with being Minister of Economy”, is a phrase that he lets go to open the umbrella and buy time.
For his decision, he analyzes various variants. From being, in fact, the candidate for the presidency in a difficult situation, betting on showing some minimal result in economic management and playing with the support of almost all of Peronism, polarizing against the ghost represented by the various variants of the right-wing opposition; Or, if the economic situation does not improve (not to mention if it gets worse), you can play the “identity card” card, as he comments in power circles. As a 50-year-old man – young by traditional politics – he can bet on taking charge of a crisis and running for the presidency another time. For this second option, Daniel Scioli, Juan Manzur, “Wado” de Pedro and some others are waiting crouched down just in case.
However, for the progressive and popular sectors, that is not the debate. The problem is not the names, nor the thread, nor “order the internal”, but the model. And the model that the Frente de Todos chose is to validate the Macrista heritage and the IMF plans. Even when there is growth, it is for the benefit of the usual powerful.
If you want to think about the future, there is no room for deception: Cristina Kirchner and his space not only appointed Alberto Fernández as president -before they had opted for Scioli in 2015- but the current seamless support for Sergio Massa shows that the discursive separation against Martín Guzmán was for the rostrum. Today Tigre’s man applies a strict adjustment plan even tougher than his predecessor’s for the popular sectors, while making more and more concessions to the powerful, such as agropower, banks, oil companies or mining companies. For this orthodox policy, he is supported throughout the line by Kirchnerism. These conclusions, added to the resignation of Cristina Kirchner from any candidacy, close the debate regarding another possible course for the Frente de Todos, an idea with which Kirchnerism wanted to differentiate itself before. They already chose, and they chose the IMF.
The hard numbers of the social situation referred to above did not fall from the sky. They are not only the result of decades in which no government wanted to reverse the setbacks of neoliberalism -before the dictatorship poverty was 4%- but also, more specifically, of the current adjustment. Sergio Massa boasts today of having exceeded the adjustment goal ordered by the IMF for 2022. For the last months of last year, this meant that in the last quarter retirement and pension spending fell by 10% in real terms, while that social allocations fell by 13% and energy subsidies no less than 44%. 2023 began with measures that confirm the continuity of that course of the scissorhands man.
Before continuing, it is worth noting the invaluable support for these adjustment plans given by the CGT and CTA union leaders, yesterday complicit in Macri’s adjustment, today Peronism.
In these factors it is necessary to look for the growing disenchantment of broad sectors with the two main coalitions of the regime -it is not only with Peronism, but also with Together for Change-, the greater abstentionism that was perceived in 2021 or the growth of options such as Javier Milei on the right and the Left Front from the other side of the political spectrum, which in the last legislatures emerged as the third national force and held historic elections in various districts such as Jujuy, the Buenos Aires suburbs or CABA.
Without balance, there are no perspectives. Possibly, the Frente de Todos table that opens this Thursday will give rise to internal debates, names of candidacies and speculation. But for those who are looking for a change of course, you cannot stumble twice with the same stone: the malmenorismo to face the rights of Milei, Bullrich or Larreta would be the repetition of voting for Alberto Fernández against Macri. The result is in sight, and leads to managing the IMF plans with a depressed national and popular discourse, which in reality implies the decline of the country and the impoverishment of millions. Given the decadence of the regime, the exit is to the left. It is time for great debates and fights for a change of course.
Inflation doesn’t stop. They adjust in retirement and social programs. The government and the CGT want downward parities. It is necessary to impose a real fight plan to defeat the adjustment of the FDT, the right-wing opposition and the IMF.
— Nicolas del Caño (@NicolasdelCano) February 14, 2023
A great meeting of org. combative and fighting groups, such as the Sutna, the residents of CABA and health from all over the country, the piquetero unit and many others, could be a step to unite the employed, unemployed, formal and informal, as an alternative to the treasonous leaders .
— Nicolas del Caño (@NicolasdelCano) February 14, 2023