December 9, 2013
Some reflections for voting day
Moretricks than proposals ocurred throughout the campaign
In a week due to end with the country voting and at the peak of an unusually heated campaign, the third major railway accident in 20 months occurred. How odd.
The forensic tests from the last two disasters established the responsibility of the engine-drivers and everything points to this case being no different. At least the driver Julio Benítez has already testified to the judge that “the train was working OK” but he “did not remember anything more” although the battered hard drive from the train cameras was found in his satchel. Even odder.
It is thus evident that “human error” was behind the three disasters, which have several other points in common — all three occurred at almost exactly the same time within the morning rush hour; railway union leaders rejected all responsibility; the major newspapers and some columnists rushed to facile judgement and made a meal out of every accident on behalf of the opposition without subsequently correcting themselves.
In any case, the lawyer contracted by most of the victims, Gregorio Dalbón, is asking that trade unionists be probed and for telephone calls to be crossed in order to seek possible threats against engine-drivers. Which is still an enigma in the case of Leonardo Andrada, the driver who handed over the train to his colleague Marcos Córdoba on the morning of the first crash in Once, which caused more than 50 deaths. It is said that Andrada’s testimony was decisive but also fatal — he was gunned down with six bullets supposedly to steal his mobile telephone. Really odd.
In this context of a presumed Mafia — although not as bad as the drug-trafficking crimes in Rosario and Córdoba, which are still being toned down by the media because there are no Kirchnerite administrations there — this country, pressured and confused as rarely before, is voting at the same time as readers are immersed in this column.
It is not difficult to describe or recall how we got here. Talking of a dirty campaign would be one way of summing it up. It would be more accurate to say that it was also a mendacious campaign in the sense of far more sneaky tricks than proposals or pseudo-proposals which in reality boiled down to content-free and meaningless slogans..
First came the case of Juan Cabandié, who reportedly fell into a trap. Anybody can make a mistake but it is not the same when committed by a national Congress candidate for the ruling party in a red-hot campaign. His errors were inevitably magnified and political malice is a familiar and closely studied phenomenon which should not surprise anybody although somehow it always does. And not only in Argentina — electoral campaigns around the world tend to be dirty almost by definition.
Anyway, Cabandié failed to realize that, with the new technology and the mobile telephones which everybody has, anything can be recorded by indiscreet cameras with the worst of intentions. Also open to question is his argument that being the child of dissapeared gave him the right to ask for “corrective” action against a traffic warden on his case. But his main blunder was to go on television to “defend himself” when he should have nipped the episode in the bud before it became a scandal. Somebody should have advised him to do the best and indeed only thing an honourable and politically advancing person can do in a case like that — write the briefest of letters publicly assuming the error, apologize to the person concerned and then just shut up. The whole thing would not have lasted two days.
As it was, the episode signified a campaign triumph for the opposition, once again backed by self-interested and implacable media hatreds, above all when condemning the government’s human rights policies and its organisms and representatives. And it also affected perhaps the most unimpeachable candidate of Kirchnerism: Senator Daniel Filmus.
But beyond this specific case, the citizenry stumbled across candidates and parties who have not explained their true intentions. In some cases they hid or disguised it or — as in the 1990s — let themselves be carried away by that perverse Menem truism: “If I were to say what I really plan to do, nobody would vote for me.”
That was the case with almost all the opposition, which attacked the government with more slogans than ideas. They repeated the same old accusations of the last few months but without saying what they would do or how with respect to specific items such as the role of the state, industrialization, employment, taxation, education, health and the role of the banks, to give some examples. All issues for which Kirchnerism has a carefully crafted script, whether you like it or not and whether you believe it or not.
With considerable conceptual poverty, confused by their own insincerity and with more petulance than proposals, many opposition candidates demonstrated that they did not even know what they were talking about when they dedicated themselves to repeating tired old recipes from the 90`s of austerity, devaluation, assuming debt and deregulation.
Curiously enough, many businessmen recognized at an important colloquium last weekend that cooling down the economy, opening up to imports and ending the controls would go against the pollicies guaranteeing development.
Over and above what the newspapers and television say, many businesses are not doing that badly. And not just that — many are actually doing very well. This is the same country in which the upper and middle classes complain furiously about what they call currency curbs but travel around the world more than ever. They should be reminded that some years ago there were queues in consulates and airports to flee the country, not for tourism. Reminded of when the currency was devalued from one day to the next with only friends of the government in the know; when factories were closed with rising unemployment; when there was no free collective wage bargaining and when wages were slashed or when inflation — runaway inflation in those times — devoured the incomes of those who had them.
There should be a better memory of that country and those policies. But you already know what Argentina is like. A place in the world where anything can happen.
In this context, only tomorrow’s newspaper will be able to say what were the wishes of the “sovereign,” as the people is every time it goes to the ballot-box. As befits a democracy.