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OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 21-11-2020 10:33

Allies not speaking to each other

Coalitions are made up of political parties, but essentially they are about people interacting. Political parties can be difficult – and so can people.

Coalitions are made up of political parties, but essentially they are about people interacting. Political parties can be difficult – and so can people. 

Elisa Carrió, Coalición Cívica ARI leader and a prominent member of the centre-right Juntos por el Cambio coalition, revealed this week that she is no longer on speaking terms with her ally, former president Mauricio Macri. She said they had argued over the phone and that she took offence when Macri implied that she was only good for making allegations about corruption. “I will never speak to him again,” Carrió quoted herself as declaring. Elisa Carrió, Coalición Cívica ARI leader and a prominent member of the centre-right Juntos por el Cambio coalition, revealed this week that she is no longer on speaking terms with her ally, former president Mauricio Macri. She said they had argued over the phone and that she took offence when Macri implied that she was only good for making allegations about corruption. “I will never speak to him again,” Carrió declared. 

It’s an interesting time for the tale to come out. The twist comes amid speculation that President Alberto Fernández and Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the leader of the leftist wing of the ruling Frente de Todos coalition, are also no longer on speaking terms.

Carrió is openly speaking her mind, continuing the habit of a lifetime. Others are not so open. One member of the opposition coalition went as far as to declare that some supporters of Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, a potential centre-right presidential candidate in 2023, are actively working to force Macri out of the coalition. Carrió has said she is willing to endorse Rodríguez Larreta, who has adopted a far less confrontational approach to the Fernández administration than Macri has, as the opposition’s presidential candidate when the time comes.

Fernández de Kirchner, who heads the Senate in her role as veep, is expressing her views in forked prose. Last month she released a statement that, if you read between the lines, complained about the Cabinet’s performance and made it clear that the president is fully responsible for whatever happens in the near future. Now the ruling party’s bloc in the Senate has released a new statement warning that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should not demand structural austerity reforms from Argentina in return for a new financing programme. The Peronist senators claim the IMF broke its own rules when it approved the multi-billion-dollar credit-line to the Macri presidency (purportedly at the request of US President Donald Trump) in 2018. The government is currently in talks with the IMF to reschedule repayments on the US$44 billion it owes. 

Economy Minister Martín Guzmán had been treading carefully as talks with an IMF mission team progressed in Buenos Aires. Guzmán expects Congress to approve any future deal with the Fund. Now the Peronist senators (meaning also Fernández de Kirchner) have slammed their fist down on the table, declaring that they do not approve the swallowing of any of the IMF’s austerity medicine. Guzmán is also aiming to reduce the fiscal deficit, mainly by doing away with the coronavirus welfare payments paid during the pandemic. The president quickly echoed the Senate statement in public, saying that austerity was not an option. 

Fernández de Kirchner is trying to battle the notion that her camp is now potentially yielding to the IMF’s demands. On Tuesday, Kirchnerite groups rallied outside Congress to mark what in the Peronist party is known as ‘Activist Day,’ or ‘Día de la Militancia.’ That same day the Chamber of Deputies approved a ‘wealth tax’ bill sponsored by lawmaker Máximo Kirchner, the vice-president’s son and leader of the ruling coalition’s lower house bloc. 

Here then was the Kirchnerite wing trying to fire up its base after a miserable economic year dominated by the coronavirus crisis. The wealth tax bill was approved with the backing of some opposition lawmakers (notably two centre-right opposition lawmakers taking orders from Jujuy Province Governor Gerardo Morales.) It now moves to the Peronist-controlled Senate. 

On Tuesday, the president then chose to trumpet his sending of an abortion bill to Congress. Was that a subtle way of trying to overshadow the wealth tax issue? Some Peronist senators have said that “it is not the right time” to debate abortion, echoing the criticism of the blue religious lobby. 

Business chambers are already complaining too, this time about the wealth tax (technically a one-time contribution by the very rich, about 9,000 people) and have vowed to challenge it in court. The approval of the wealth tax bill has upset some business leaders who are on good terms with the president. With the Senate statement about the ongoing talks with the IMF and the approval of the wealth tax bill, the ruling coalition’s Kirchnerite win is sending out the message that it is pursuing its own militant agenda, at least on the surface. Still, at the same time Fernández de Kirchner appears to be closely monitoring the economic situation (inflation in October clocked in at a punishing 3.8 percent) – the vice-president reportedly met recently with market-friendly economist Martin Redrado, a former Central Bank governor who quit in 2010 during her first term as president, after an argument about foreign currency reserves. Fernández de Kirchner and Redrado are now back on speaking terms after a decade

 

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Martín Gambarotta

Martín Gambarotta

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