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OP-ED | 12-11-2022 06:17

Storms amid a drought

In the context of a lethal global cocktail being compounded by so many urgent socio-economic problems here, it seems incredibly absurd that judicial issues should continue to dominate the local political agenda.

Some might imagine that President Alberto Fernández is escaping his domestic woes in the most enjoyable way possible over the next week, flying off to the dream destinations of Paris (“He’ll always have Paris”) and the exotic Indonesian island of Bali, but the G20 summit there will confront him with the real uncertainties facing the world – the Ukraine war on top of the unresolved coronavirus pandemic with all its fallout for global energy and food supplies, inflation on the rise everywhere (if not on the same scale as here) and the growing risk of worldwide recession in the new year now nearly upon us. Not to mention the longer-term problems of climate change being somewhat timidly approached by the COP27 conference in Egypt running until next Friday. In the context of this lethal global cocktail being compounded by so many urgent socio-economic problems here, it seems incredibly absurd that judicial issues should continue to dominate the local political agenda.

Not that President Fernández will necessarily focus on joining his G20 colleagues in tackling these international problems, even though kicking off his time abroad in Paris with a seminar on “the multiple shocks facing the world.” Instead his obsession with scant Central Bank reserves is likely to continue in the vain hope of coaxing something out of such G20 partners as China with US$3 trillion in reserves or Brazil with over US$300 billion (although there he would need to wait seven weeks for the inauguration of his pal Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva). Projections of the drought indicate that the inflow of export dollars into Central Bank coffers could plunge as much as US$10 billion below expected levels when over US$1 billion of the US$5 billion from September’s “soy dollar” has already evaporated. Meanwhile the quasi-fiscal deficit of peso bond debt is closing in on 14 digits, even if much of it is owed to the government’s own state agencies.

While the presidential obsession continues to be Central Bank reserves, the autistic mania of Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has remained the judicial front throughout these three years and nor is it likely to recede as the Santa Cruz highway corruption trial approaches its climax while acquittals in previous trials are being revised. Not that Kirchnerism is blind to socio-economic problems, as its constant pressures in favour of bonuses for the most vulnerable and its sniping against the International Monetary Fund (IMF) show, but judicial issues have returned to the fore this week with the jostling over control of the Council of Magistrates now being presented as a conflict between the judicial and legislative branches of government with open defiance of the Supreme Court (not to mention the former president’s explosive allegations regarding the investigation regarding the failed assassination attempt on her life). The question of who has the last word when it comes to the legislative representatives on a judicial body is complex and it could be premature to advance any conclusion on a conflict still in progress (November 21 will be the D-day for deciding whether the second Senate minority on the Council will be represented by a government senator via a bogus division of the ruling party’s caucus quashed by the Supreme Court or an opposition senator as would otherwise be the case) except perhaps to ask if this is really the biggest problem facing Argentina.

Nor is the biggest problem the future of the PASO primaries (omitted from next month’s extraordinary sessions of Congress by a president mindful that his 2019 nomination by his own veep will remain a unique phenomenon) nor the presidential hopefuls competing in them, widely perceived (rightly or wrongly) as the main obsession of the opposition. But urgent though it might be to look beyond these judicial and electoral scenarios to a broader socio-economic perspective, an increasingly isolationist Argentina needs to touch base with the outside world – Bali might come across as a paradise on earth but the world’s real problems will be there next week. 

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