May 21, 2013
CFK’s war against Scioli
By James Neilson
For what to others must seem murky reasons but which she evidently thinks are plain enough, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner hates Governor Daniel Scioli so much that if getting rid of him requires her to transform Buenos Aires Province into a wasteland, she will do just that. As well as depriving him of the funds he needs to keep the large number of people who are on the provincial payroll happy, encouraging the teachers’ union to go on strike yet again and ordering her henchmen to subject him to venomous criticism, Cristina’s government stands accused of provoking a riot in Junín, where people angered by the murder of a teenage girl trashed a local police station, torched patrol cars and besieged a branch of the Banco Provincia. According to Junín’s mayor, who just happens to be a Radical close to former vice president Julio Cobos and is therefore on Cristina’s black list, the mayhem was the work of Kirchnerite thugs who descended on the town for the express purpose of making the most of an opportunity to wreak havoc and, by doing so, persuade people that Scioli is incapable of managing the district he is trying to govern.
In some parts of the world, it would be hard to take seriously the idea that a president would do her best to make life impossible for much of her country’s population because she wants to discredit governors who either oppose her or, as is the case with Scioli, are suspected of harbouring heretical thoughts. But here it has long been assumed that Cristina and her supporters are waging a relentless war not just against Scioli but also Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri and the governors of Santa Fe, Córdoba and Santa Cruz. As the lady holds the purse strings and doles out money as she sees fit, rewarding loyalists and telling the rest where they can get off, that is now regarded as perfectly normal. So too, for that matter, is the Kirchnerite habit of making the most of the grievances of state employees, beginning with the teachers, to harass cash-strapped governors and town mayors until they fall into line.
Scioli’s reaction to all this has disconcerted many people, beginning with the Kirchnerites. The man simply refuses to lose his temper. Instead of counterattacking, he repeatedly swears fealty to Cristina while going his own way, chatting amiably with individuals the president regards as traitors, saying he would never dream of opposing a presidential attempt to ditch the Constitution so she can get re-elected while busily continuing to put together a broad-based alliance in preparation for the campaign he evidently hopes will carry him to the Pink House.
Some of Scioli’s followers say he is destroying his chances by kowtowing so abjectly to Cristina, but the opinion polls send a very different message: he is currently far more popular than she is. What is more, thanks to the frantic efforts of Cristina and her storm troopers, many people in Buenos Aires Province, almost forty percent of the country’s entire population, tend to blame the national government for his alleged failings.
Like revolutionaries determined to unseat a political order they despise, the Kirchnerites have made the slogan “worse is better” their own. They clearly believe they can exploit the hardships resulting from their own yobbish behaviour by blaming them on others even though they happen to be in government. That is by no means as ridiculous as it would seem at first sight. As the career of the late Hugo Chávez reminded us, a soaring crime rate can help a strongman, or a strong woman, because the many who fear for their lives will be more disposed to put their trust in such an individual than in some namby-pamby democrat who goes on about the need to respect the law.
Under Chávez, Venezuela’s poor were the principal victims of the thousands of bloodthirsty thugs, of whom many are thought to be linked to one or other of the government’s “militant” organizations, that roam the streets of Caracas and other cities, but that did not stop them worshipping their alleged benefactor. In Argentina, the widespread belief that unless the Peronists are in power they will run amok has allowed them not merely to survive the long series of disasters they have contrived to bring about but also to continue dominating much of the political landscape.
For several years now, political mavens have been telling us that Scioli is about to turn against Cristina. So far he has disappointed them, but the day could be approaching when he decides that enough is enough and the time has come to make a clear break. For that to happen, he and other Peronist heavyweights will have had to come to the conclusion that Cristina is finished. The Peronists may be less brutal than the British Conservatives when it comes to dumping a leader they suspect is unable to guarantee them the votes they need to stay in business, but if they think that most Argentines, appalled by the mishandling of the economy, blatant corruption, fatuous cockiness of Cristina’s relatively youthful favourites and the government’s apparent willingness to arm its supporters and encourage rioters, are fed up with the populist “model” and want something else, they would not hesitate to tell her that her time is up and that, unless she agrees to do their bidding, they will do nothing to help her stay in the Pink House until December 10, 2015.