May 25, 2013
Friends without benefits
Without President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner giving an inch to the September 13 saucepan-bashing protests, some changes in style rather than substance are clearly perceptible in the CFK re-emerging since then — she seems determined to do basically the same things but in the nicest possible way to counter sagging popularity and her relationship with Mayor Mauricio Macri’s City Hall is a case in point, judging from last Wednesday’s speech. On that occasion she surprised everybody with an apparent gesture of rapprochement by inviting Macri to “lower a gear (of conflict)” and sit down to work out an agreement over idle City land in order to provide more building sites for the national government’s new Pro-Cre.Ar housing programme (the heir of the ill-starred and scandal-ridden “Shared Dreams”) — in the process CFK silenced the boos triggered among her captive audience by mere mention of the mayoral name.
Nevertheless, the rapprochement is more apparent than real and perhaps not even apparent. The proposal for dialogue can be construed as not only an amiable gesture but also pressure on Macri for yet another concession on a new front (City land) couched in terms falling not very short of making the mayor the classic “offer he cannot refuse.” If CFK asks Macri to lower the conflict gears, this invitation came just a week after she had raised those gears several notches by pushing through Congress the aggressive law to strip Banco Ciudad of its judicial deposits (even if that municipal bank plays a leading role in the housing finance which the national government is now anxious to promote). And if the two sides do sit down to talk about idle land for building sites, would CFK accept the agenda being extended to thornier and even more urgent issues such as a subway system which could soon collapse amid the current jurisdictional limbo of neither municipal nor national governments accepting responsibility? Nor is Macri especially inclined to accept conciliatory gestures from a national government allowing the telephone-tapping charges against him to move inexorably forward to trial while blocking the cases against its own officials.
The tension and mistrust between the CFK and Macri camps is thus only complicated by the post-protest need to be less confrontational — the experience of Kirchner presidencies so far suggests that every time a hand is held out in friendship, the other side should start wondering what weapon lies in the other hand.