Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner lambasted her own government’s management of the economy Friday, fuelling already high tensions with President Alberto Fernández.
Fernández de Kirchner, who herself was president from 2007 to 2015, never named Fernández or any of his ministers in an hour-and-a-half speech in northern Argentina. But she scorched his economic team for not taming 55 percent inflation and not listening to her suggestions on a proper strategy.
“The principal problem today, as always, is the economy,” Fernández de Kirchner said, adding that “inflation isn’t stopping.”
Argentines “don’t have enough to make it till the end of the month, their income isn’t enough, they don’t have jobs, they can’t pay rent, food and other things go up every day.”
Fernández de Kirchner’s comments are the latest signs that the coalition she and Fernández built is slowly fragmenting after two years in power. The two leaders haven’t been seen in public together since early March. The vice-president reminded attendees Friday that she chose Fernández to run for the top job in 2019, noting “he didn’t represent any political movement.”
Fernández de Kirchner also took aim at the International Monetary Fund, claiming that the US$44-billion programme the government recently agreed to calls for “devaluations above the level of the consumer price index and the benchmark interest rate above that.”
“That’s not going to create growth, nor lower inflation,” she added. “The only thing the permanent devaluations does is increase and maintain inflation’s inertia.”
An IMF spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment after business hours Friday.
Fernández de Kirchner rejected the notion that printing money is the root cause of inflation in Argentina. She also questioned the Central Bank’s management of the currency and “problem with reserves,” inquiring how the latter could be so low when the government recorded a major trade surplus last year.
Tensions have mounted for months, and amplified in recent days. Last week, Máximo Kirchner, the vice-president’s son and a top lawmaker in Congress, publicly called out Economy Minister Martín Guzmán, a minister loyal to Fernández, for not getting involved in political disputes. Another provincial official close to Fernández de Kirchner lobbed criticism at Guzmán too.
The coalition’s embarrassing loss in a primary midterm vote last September marked a turning point in its unity. Fernández de Kirchner blamed the primary defeat on what she perceived as Fernández’s austerity. Ministers loyal to her also threatened to resign, forcing Fernández to reshuffle his cabinet at the time.
Turmoil resurfaced in the ruling coalition in March when lawmakers loyal to the vice president voted against the IMF agreement Guzmán negotiated.
Fernández and Fernández de Kirchner’s agendas Friday exemplified the distance that’s grown between them. Fernández flew to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, while Fernández de Kirchner spoke nearly 2,000 miles away in Chaco, one of the most northern provinces.
by Patrick Gillespie, Bloomberg