May 20, 2013
Since constitutional reform has become so central in public debate in recent weeks, one argument in favour of returning to more pressing issues might be that no constitutional amendments should be proposed until the unfinished business of the previous 1994 constitutional reform has been resolved — and here pride of place might well go to creating a rational federal revenue-sharing system with the Santa Cruz provincial government’s current plight yet another example of its absence. This crisis did not begin yesterday and nor will it end today or tomorrow (not even for hapless Governor Daniel Peralta at our press time). The latter’s problems go back at least nine months when the La Cámpora militant youth grouping withdrew both its Cabinet participation and legislative support right at the start of Peralta’s second term — within a broader context the province has lacked clear leadership ever since three-term governor Néstor Kirchner reached the Presidency in 2003 with the presidential couple overshadowing their three strike-plagued successors.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has shown ample signs of wanting Peralta out while there is a case for saying that the cash-starved governor is pushing the self-destruct button himself with Wednesday’s extraordinary press conference denouncing “destabilization” in response to the even more bizarre charges of espionage against CFK (Security Secretary Sergio Berni’s interpretation of the provincial police contribution to presidential security) but this thing seems bigger than either of them — Peralta, who has just survived a brutal police strike of almost a month, will not be leaving so easily even although his position seems completely impossible with the denial of both national government and provincial legislative support (only five of the 22 Victory Front deputies back him). On her side CFK would like to avoid the scandal of a federal trusteeship or openly forcing out Peralta in her adopted province but this might not be so easy either.
Yet the conundrums of Argentine federalism are not limited to the bottom of the country — thus Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli, who heads the country’s most important district, has almost as much trouble obtaining Kirchnerite legislative support for his tax reforms as his namesake Peralta for incurring provincial debt. Given that the other major provinces of Santa Fe and Córdoba also have issues, it is high time that a perverse federal revenue-sharing system virtually making provincial finances dependent on national whims is reformed.