December 12, 2013
With all eyes on October
There are always weeks, as in normal countries, when nothing too much seems to happen outside the usual routine. Such regularity does not mean anything more than that and when in these cases nothing spectacular happens, there is nothing astonishing or striking about it — whatever happens, happens and the world keeps going round.
That’s how last week should have been. Nothing extraordinary happened to irritate the epidermis of the real world — at least in its political, economic or social spheres or everyday life in this country always capable of coming out in surprising rashes and fevers.
But whenever this kind of normality occurs in Argentina, it seems so extravagant that there is an immediate hunt for conspiratorial explanations. It seems almost a compulsion and that is what happened last weekend after the dust had settled over the PASO primaries.
In fact, it all began with a fresh salvo from that loose cannon of Sunday television, Jorge Lanata, whose feverish imagination led him into some superlative inventions with respect to the Seychelles Islands, a tax haven where he accused President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of having stashed away literally millions of dollars worth of her allegedly ill-gotten gains. The splash only lasted a few hours before being immediately and convincingly denied, as almost invariably happens to everything “denounced” by the Channel 13 star.
Subsequently there were almost daily media attempts to saw away at the already weakened trunk of the Kirchnerite tree (given its feeble vote count). And since (as is common knowledge) journalists have to make a living and therefore tend to magnify everything, the past week saw more opinions than facts, the repetition of clichés to saturation point, infinite multiplication of adjectives and (true to Argentine middle-class custom) the most apocalyptic prophesies. Everything which this column has had occasion to call (more than once) fireworks.
Far from being at all serious, all this fussing and fighting downsized and obscured information which would have warranted some sober and enlightening analysis. For example, the presidential meeting down in Santa Cruz with businessmen, bankers and trade unionists, which did not earn the kind of commentary which might have been expected from supposedly rigorous analysts. But in contrast, the so-called Council of the Americas, which announced the end of Kirchnerism, was fully aired.
The generalized agreement that the end of the “K” cycle draws nigh is, of course, striking, just as the newly coined concept of “post-Kirchnerism” sounds good. But that does not make it necessarily so. It might be useful to recall, whether one likes it or not, that the current government with strongly Peronist roots remains the single largest party nationwide.
That famous Mark Twain quote: “The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated” could come back to haunt us because throughout the past decade it has been proven that Kirchnerism has a unique plasticity like no rival party, leadership or ideology and every time they were at risk, they knew how to adapt to circumstances and come through — not always thanks to their own virtues but rather the flaws of others. And on the other side we see more clichés than truths proliferating. For example, the charge that the government is confrontational tends to come from the sectors which most harass it. Indeed Messrs. Macri, Massa and De Narváez have made their careers out of being confrontational all the time.
They also agree over other reproaches. “You shouldn’t look back into the past,” they say without further explanation. Have they forgotten the genocide which this country suffered? Will they quash all the trials Kirchnerism re-opened? Free all the military officers convicted in trials where they enjoyed all the rights denied to their victims?
And there’s more. “We cannot stay isolated from the world,” they say but they do not explain which world they are talking about? Perhaps the one offering loans and debts which always benefit the establishment negotiators and economists but never the country?
There were other issues sketching the broad panorama of the past week and giving it diversity. LAN airline’s dispute over the Jorge Newbery Airport hangar produced an injunction request without fail while the return of runaway Mendoza judge Otilio Romano, extradited from Chile, was ignored. And the (im)balances of the Supreme Court became visible again, such as the ruling upholding another injunction request which prevents the state from recovering Rural Society’s fairgrounds in Palermo, handed over 20 years ago at a knock-down price. Or like that other ruling which vetoed various articles of the government’s judicial reform package. All surely making the government fearful that the Court will line up completely with Clarín against the Broadcasting Law.
Speculation was thus the order of the day or rather week. There were even those who rode the illusion of an opposition victory in October to push for the Speaker’s mace in Congress. Of course, some common sense prevailed to put things in their place. The Socialist leader and candidate Hermes Binner on one side and Margarita Stolbizer and Ricardo Alfonsín on the Radical side rapidly distanced themselves from these intentions of dissident Peronism and Mauricio Macri supporters who, with right-leaning Radical allies like Senator Ernesto Sanz, seek to weaken the government according to the old strategies of the worst left in keeping with the archaic theory of “the worse, the better.” The same thinking, one might say, of the media and leaders who on Friday celebrated the rejection of the Argentine debt payment proposal by the New York courts.
And it is not just a question of counting votes and then seats. The most serious issue is that behind the maximalist proposals lurks a zest to destabilize which Kirchnerism has denounced rapidly and in detail and not without reason. Because it is one thing to oppose and quite another to dissolve at any price whoever is governing. Which is what a certain feverish pretension that the Kirchnerite administration not end its term in 2015 but beforehand seems to be looking for.
That is why there was again talk of an “institutional coup” in the past week. With this gravely serious expression the government went out to face its foes. And with its eyes set on October.