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ARGENTINA | 15-02-2024 15:09

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner reappears with economic critique of ‘showman’ Milei

Former president shares an analysis of the “third debt crisis” facing Argentina and accuses La Libertad Avanza leader of implementing “ferocious austerity programme.”

Using a quote by the founder of constitutional founder Juan Bautista Alberdi, former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner reappeared on the political scene this week, disseminating a sweeping analysis of Argentina’s “third debt crisis.”

Dripping with criticism of President Javier Milei’s government, Fernández de Kirchner accused the La Libertad Avanza leader of being a “showman-economist” – an insult he responded to by saying that the “new times” need “a little show.”

Fernández de Kirchner, 70, has mostly stayed quiet since Milei took office last December, succeeding Alberto Fernández as president and ending her time as vice-president.

Milei’s  government "has deployed a ferocious austerity programme that acts as a real destabilisation plan," alleged the former president, who published the analysis – a lengthy “working document” – on the X social media platform.

This situation, she continued, "not only feeds back the inflationary spiral, placing society on the brink of shock,” it also “provokes an increase in unemployment and social desperation” in what she described as “a sort of planned chaos."

Declaring that Milei’s only plan is dollarisation of the economy and the eradication of the peso, Fernández de Kirchner warned that the current government will need “the construction of a parliamentary agreement system” if it is to move forward with its objectives.

“It’s more than obvious that, in the president’s head, the only stabilisation plan is dollarisation. The measures adopted in another theoretical context are unexplainable,” she states.

Her analysis, stretching over 33 pages, assesses “from a historical, economic and political standpoint, the framework faced by Argentina after the inauguration of a new government for the 2023-2027 period.”

 

Founding principles

Fernández de Kirchner chose to open her analysis with a quote from Alberdi, the intellectual author of Argentina’s 1853 Constitution and a figure regularly cited and praised by Milei.

“On Valentine’s Day and, as ever, in love with our Homeland, I share with you the work document ‘Argentina in its third debt crisis. Framework.’ It comes with a quote by Juan Bautista Alberdi," she wrote on social media.

“Taking capitals on loan to replace capitals destroyed by the crisis is not how to remedy poverty, but how to worsen it; someone else’s wealth is not the country’s wealth. Debt represents more poverty than wealth. Indebtedness is not enrichment, but exposing oneself to impoverishment due to the ease to always spend other people’s money,” reads the quotation.

Developing her thesis, Fernández de Kirchner argues that “it wouldn’t be accurate to qualify this government as the fourth neoliberal experience.”

“The characteristics of the discourse and political practice of the new president, as those of his teams in different areas, place the government beyond the disruptive and take it to a place Argentina has never known. This is also developing in an extremely serious economic and social context,” she warned.

One of the last chapters of the document – ‘2023-2027. A showman/economist at the Rosada’ – is dedicated to the new president and his government. Drenched with criticism of the new administration, Fernández de Kirchner slams Milei for using “the same people” with the expectation of “different results,” citing the presence of a number of former government officials.

Starting with Economy Minister Luis Caputo, the former president highlighted the role played by former Central Bank governor Federico Sturzenegger in Milei’s sweeping reform plans.

For the former vice-president, the government’s plan “does not differ much from the one conducted by the [1976-1983] civic-military dictatorship in terms of the indiscriminate openness of the economy and the de facto labour deregulation, or from the privatisations of the 1990s.”

Fernández de Kirchner also criticised the La Libertad Avanza leader’s attempts to make changes via decree.

“The president may exercise the right to intend to reform the Constitution, but he may NOT do it through an emergency decree or a law, but through the reform mechanism established in the Constitution itself,” she writes.

The veteran politician also critiqued attempts to compare Milei to former US president Donald Trump, writing that Argentina’s latest leader is “diametrically opposed to him in economic thought.”

Fernández de Kircher, however, did concede that Argentina must review the efficiency of the state and the services it provides.

“This does not mean denying the existence of a review of this model in terms of the corrections demanded by Argentina’s production structure, which allows us to delve into the exporting bias, to suggest an inescapable labour update or contemplate the creation or transformation of companies in the form of virtuous public and private associations, as was the case with [state energy firm] YPF before it was de-nationalised,” she stressed.

 

Reaction

Milei responded mildly to the former president’s missive. “It is her opinion, it is fine, perhaps the new times require a bit of show too,” he said in a TV interview.

Dismissing her document but avoiding attacking her directly, he stated that "Cristina is intellectually honest, but she adheres to something that is garbage."

Interior Minister Guillermo Francos also jumped in two-footed. “She has the nerve to express herself as if she were not responsible for anything,” he told Radio Mitre.

Economy Minister Luis Caputo – whom Fernández de Kirchner described as “the architect of the serial indebtedness of the government of [former president] Mauricio Macri" (2015-2019) – countered that it was the former president herself who is responsible for “all the fiscal deficit of the last 16 years".

"Madam, it is never too late to learn a very basic economic concept that unfortunately you have always ignored: debt is only taken when there is a fiscal deficit. The entire fiscal deficit of the last 16 years was generated by you during your 12 years in office," Caputo wrote on X.

“I invite you to have a bit of dignity and stay quiet while decent Argentines make the huge effort to withstand and overcome the economic disaster of your last four years in office, no doubt the worst in Argentine history,” he fired off.

Fernández de Kirchner wasted no time in responding.

“Good morning, Mr Minister, you’re not the first one in your family who’s tried to silence me. Only in a country with this Judiciary can you be a public official again at all,” she retorted on X.

The message was a reference to alleged financing provided by Caputo Hermanos SA, a company owned by the government official’s brothers, to a member of Revolución Federal, the group held to be partly responsible for the failed assassination attempt against Fernández de Kirchner that took place in September 2022.

Caputo Hermanos SA made multiple payments to Jonathan Morel, the founder of the ultra-right organisation, and his former partner Evelyn Balboa, for alleged carpentry jobs, according to reporting by Perfil.

 

– TIMES/AFP/NA

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