March 12, 2014
The immediate memory of the year ending today for most people will be the endless heat wave and power cuts preceded by the looting earlier this month. But beforehand there were 11 months which also deserve their place in an annual roundup. Perhaps one chronic feature of the year was the frequency with which the course of events departed from the script. This time last year the 2013 forecasts unanimously billed the midterm elections in late October as the central event and yet just two days after the voting almost nobody was talking about these elections because of the Supreme Court ruling that confirmed the 2009 media law as constitutional. By the same token President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s state-of-the-nation speech at the start of the working year clearly scripted 2013 as being dedicated to judicial reform yet the emergence of Pope Francis just the following week completely transformed the political scenario and vocabulary — an attempt to revive this drive the next month was derailed by the La Plata floods before the package finally foundered against the judiciary it was supposed to reform.
Another salient (and perhaps electorally decisive) feature of 2013 was an eccentric choice of agenda by the CFK administration which generally stuck to its guns in the core areas of economic policy (even after the exit of such an iconic figure as Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo Moreno). Quite apart from a judicial reform package geared far more to serving state interests than the citizenry at large, some of the top priorities were either far removed from mainstream issues (the agreement with Iran) or contradictory to the rhetoric of populist nationalism (the YPF-Chevron deal and May’s unproductive dollar whitewash) or even clashing with the most fundamental Kirchnerite principles (the controversial promotion of Army Chief-of-Staff César Milani). Governments which thus lose their way are eminently capable of losing elections and a self-destructive streak should not be underestimated as contributing to a result which sealed CFK’s lame duck status (in contrast to the fevered third term speculation early this year). A vacuum which has yet to be convincingly filled since both election winner Sergio Massa and the new Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich may have peaked too soon.
One of the less visible casualties of the result was mass pot-bashing — from a million or so expressing their indignation on April 18 to this month’s localized protests against power cuts. The changing moods of a changing year which stubbornly refused to be a chronicle foretold.