April 23, 2014
The land of the eternal yellow alert
For the Herald
In spite of the hordes of people leaving to beach resorts, the little sordid world of politics never sleeps
The year 2014 dawned with a heat wave, a brand-new luxury tax and a three-month extension of a capital whitewash with such meagre returns hitherto. And no less than 870 Chinese supermarkets announced their decision to sue the state to the tune of 50 million pesos for their losses in last month’s looting.
Doesn’t sound like a whole bunch for the start of a year but things have calmed down. As if summer has now begun in earnest with the mass exodus of hordes of porteños toward the coast, thus calming down the discontented middle class and the fickle emerging classes. Something which only sociology could explain because if social inclusion was Kirchnerism’s biggest success, its most grievous error was not to understand that the beneficiaries are not characterized by gratitude but, on the contrary, tend to assume the grievances of the always dissatisfied middle classes as their own.
Such is the case with housing, this country’s historic deficit. The Pro-Crear Plan had as its initial objective delivering some 400,000 mortgage credits in the course of four years. In just one they have given out 309,000 by lot, of which 90,000 are housing starts and over 15,000 complete housing units. A success? A failure? Argentines have an answer for every taste.
Meanwhile the sordid little world of politics “never sleeps”, as they used to say about Corrientes Avenue, once glittering and now pathetic. Because politics is all about staying alive. Perhaps for that reason the two strongest conglomerates of the opposition have commenced their electioneering from the very outset of the year. On the one side, opposition Peronism has plunged into the fray (as it best knows how to do) with campaigns on the Atlantic coast headed by the ex-mayors Sergio Massa and Darío Giustozzi, seconded by such recognized cavaliers as Messrs. Eduar- do Duhalde, Felipe Solá, Luis Barrionuevo, Gerónimo “Momo” Venegas, Carlos Reutemann, Roberto Lavagna and Martín Redrado.
On the other side, the Broad Progressive Front and the UCR Radicals with their provincial roots kicked off the year by agreeing on a centre-left front to govern as from 2015. The Socialists highlighted the candidacy of Hermes Binner although Ricardo Alfonsín immediately warned them that the commitment “should be as open and as participatory as possible.” This alliance also embraces Margarita Stolbizer’s GEN, the Córdoba followers of Luis Juez and the chronically unstable Libres del Sur and Civic Coalition.
What is really good is that they all seem to have learned something — that first and foremost, it’s all about “elaborating a proposal of government.” And that if all you do is discuss candidacies, the result is a massacre. Perhaps for that reason all look to the UNEN experience in the City open primaries as a model. Of course, somebody should warn them that beyond the capital in the vast national territory, there are different realities in which that type of experience could be very difficult to repeat.
In any case it remains unknown how the ambitions and principles (what’s left of them) of such disparate leaders as UCR chairman Ernesto Sanz and the surprising and changing Fernando “Pino” Solanas can be co-ordinated. Or how the Popular Unity of Víctor De Gennaro can co-exist with the followers of Elisa Carrió. And the same applies when matching up Claudio Lozano or Julio Cobos with Juez.
What is true is that everybody seems to have begun the political year at a gallop, taking advantage of a crestfallen ruling party battered by the climate and above all its own errors — the case of Army chief César Milani, its vacillations concerning the Civil and Commercial Code and its mismanagement of the energy crisis — and also for its sins of omission, such as not applying a serious policy to responsibly control public spaces, a policy whose lack so irritates society.
January is starting with all the cards on the table — among them one who could prove to be a joker wild, known only to his fellow-citizens of Chaco until now but today the whole country is familiar with the specific and schematic objectives of Jorge Milton Capitanich. It remains to be seen whether it will be good or bad for the country but the government gains a breathing-space while the president vacations in Patagonia, unfailingly questioned by the major dailies — in yesteryear because she spoke every day and now because she finally seems to have learned the virtues of discretion.
In any events, the 204 objectives and the 272 targets announced by the Cabinet chief are in fact a plan of government for the next two years. It faces a panorama of threats. The most obvious is the start of classes in March, which looks shaky throughout the country as Buenos Aires province teachers’ union leader Roberto Baradel warned last Thursday. The domino effect from province to province could become extremely serious.
And far more so (if it transpires) the other threat which remains latent among the police hosts who “agreed to” (one way of putting it) disproportionate pay increases after their December mutinies. Nobody knows how valid these deals, which each governor made under pressure with the sole aim of calming things down, will prove. But common sense says that what was agreed in some provinces will be impossible to put into effect.
The leading case here has already arisen this week in Entre Ríos, where the basic salary was fixed at 8,500 pesos. There Jorge Amílcar García, the prosecutor general of the provincial Supreme Court, announced that as soon as this month’s judicial recess is over, he will press charges against the rebellious police of December who (he underlined) forced Governor Sergio Urribarri to sign a “‘null and void agreement ... under duress, by extortionate means and as a product of sedition:” The Entre Ríos case involves some 70 policemen, of whom a dozen ringleaders will be tried as responsible for the incidents and the robberies.
Everything indicates that this is the correct route but we must await the response of that unruly and dangerous corporation into which the erstwhile “servants of law and order” have converted themselves. And that is indeed a problem for the entire republic.
Because of all the aforementioned, 2014 is not shaping up to be an easy year. Although some will say, with reason, that nothing in Argentina ever was or is easy. That’s why we said a couple of columns ago that this is a marvellous country but also the land of eternal yellow alerts.