March 8, 2014
Álvaro Alsogaray, neocon scionSunday, January 26, 2014
‘I want to revive the liberal Ucedé party’
Studies: Agricultural engineer
Reads: Human Action (Ludwig von Mises), Road to Serfdom (Friedrich von Hayek) and Economics in One Lesson (Henry Hazlitt)
TV: international news mostly because local shows are too focused on criminal issues.
Films: Les Uns et les Autres and war films.
Voted in 2013: PRO party“Where should we meet?,” Álvaro Alsogaray, son of late former Economy minister and founder of the Democratic Center Union (Ucedé) in the 1980s, immediately agreed to talk to the Herald. He chose “La Biela” cafe, an aristocratic stronghold in the heart of Recoleta neighbourhood that was once frequented by the Argentine elite. Its golden years seem gone now and the influence the liberals once had over national affairs seems to have faded. Alsogaray dreams of reviving all that along with the legal status of the largest neoconservative (known as ‘liberals’ in Argentina) political party that ever existed in this country.
You are one province away from recovering the national status of the Ucedé. Why now?
Because we need people to know there is an alternative given the turmoil our country is going through and we think there is no liberal voice in the opposition field that can represent our principles as we do.
A liberal sector believes that BA City Mayor Mauricio Macri of the centre-right PRO party can become their natural option in the 2015 presidential election…
Macri leads an important party that can be labelled as part of the centre or centre-right political field but in no way has he embraced a liberal position. Furthermore, I think he is worried about being characterized that way because he is trying to weave an alliance with multiple sectors, including Peronists and Radical Party figures.
Why should he fear being called a liberal?
He perceives, as many people do, that the term is intensely reviled by part of the public opinion. We have been suffering from very bad press and so Macri prefers to duck any liberal label. Instead he chooses to call himself a centrist politician. That’s the field that was once conquered by the Ucedé party when it became Argentina’s third political force after the 1989 election.
What made Ucedé vanish during the following decade?
Ucedé underwent the same crisis that impacted the entire national party system. In the end, they ceased to exist. The same happened to the Radical Party and the Justicialist Party (Peronist) that were divided. There are no democratic forces nowadays; no one follows primary elections to elect their presidential candidates. Everyone repeats that Macri is running for the presidency in 2015 but no one voted him for that post within PRO. The Ucedé party will encourage its members to get institutionally involved in the party’s life. We are calling for people to join us but first we have to reverse the lack of popularity we have endured since the 1990s’ political process.
Looking back, could it have been a mistake to endorse the neoliberal Peronist President Carlos Menem?
What finally had an effect was the treacherous propaganda against the neoliberal era that was released by political and media sectors during the last decade. Back then, it wasn’t a bad idea. On the contrary, it fit our purpose because it was Menem who made a U-turn from Peronism’s key principles and embraced our economic ideas of an open-market economy, no regulations, privatizations…
He sounded like a liberal but dressed like a caudillo. Was he an atypical liberal with long sideburns?
He was an imported liberal, from another political sector. We would have never expected that a liberal could emerge from Peronist ranks.
And yet, there are politicians who followed the opposite direction, like Vice-President Amado Boudou who once belonged to UPAU, the liberal university student movement. What do you think of that?
UPAU was an university liberal organization that was part of the ideological mainstream of those years. That’s why the Ucedé also had such a scope and so did UPAU. But Boudou was never a member of Ucedé. In any case, if he was ever enrolled in the liberal ranks, it was a long time ago and he may have lost his way since then.
And the Peronist Renewal Front leader Sergio Massa who was also a Kirchnerite ally before running against them in the 2013 midterms?
Yes, Massa was a member of the Ucedé during his youth, and a very active one in Buenos Aires Province disctrict of San Martín, actually. Later he took another direction. He married a Peronist supporter, the daughter of a prominent local Peronist leader (Fernando “Pato” Galmarini) and he may have changed for better positioning himself politically. But his core thinking is the right one. I am convinced that the 21st century Ucedé has to adapt to the current context, although it must still stand for its traditional principles that proved to be so successful for Argentina, that’s why I want to relaunch it.
The 1990s’ neoliberal recipe implied also a high poverty rate and huge unemployment. Was it the B side of the so-called “successful model”?
It was a consequence of a wrongly instrumented set of policies. The course set by Menem was the right one but not the way it was orchestrated. We backed the idea of privatizing public companies because statism is the cancer of any nation. However, some measures the Menem administration adopted weren’t correct. Like the one peso-one dollar Convertibility Act (Convertibilidad).
But Ucedé backed that bill, didn’t it?
Well, yes, but only because it was a necessary shock of confidence for society and markets to step out of the 1980s’ hyperinflation. Nonetheless we warned it should be temporary and the exit should also be planned. Otherwise, it would end as we predicted, with a major recession and unemployment because it was a direct intervention over the currency that could only be masked with credits coming from abroad. However, the state continued to be gigantic. And so it is now. Only that we have behaved in a rude manner and therefore we have no more access to foreign funding. When (late former) president Néstor Kirchner took office it coincided with a bonanza that had the world demanding our products. We lived a party, consuming our resources, and now we are paying for it.
Is President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government strong enough to complete its term in office?
You never can tell. If we risk guessing based on past experiences, it will be difficult if a social uprising explodes with collateral effects on the political and institutional field. Sustainability depends on people’s trust. And in the current social climate, I believe it will be difficult for us to reach 2015 in one piece. This model is exhausted. That’s why we are here showing a different model of governance, one in which no Trade Secretariat will tell you what to buy or when to export your wheat, one that will respect free market and private property. That’s called freedom.
Speaking of freedom, do you ever consider that liberal figures defending members of the military accused of human rights violations could also have been a reason for liberalism’s political decline?
Let’s make one thing clear. There were different moments. When the fight against guerrilla and terrorism was taking place, the whole of society supported it. In a democratic government (vice-president Isabel Perón’s administration after president Juan Domingo Perón’s death in 1974), people backed the annihilation of subversion. It was the wrong idea to judge with peace-time laws what happened in a context of war. We do not support the methods, neither the torture nor the forced disappearances. But it was a war, not a conventional one with trenches on both sides, but an uneven one, in order to prevent Argentina from turning into a totalitarian Marxist state. Then came the Marxist propaganda and now it seems that they were nice innocent boys.
Do you consider then that the Kirchnerite government’s human rights policies were warped by of its allies were enrolled in armed organizations like the Montoneros during the dictatorship?
There are government officials and Kirhnerite lawmakers who used violence as a method in the past. From there on, subjectivity marked all government decisions in this area. The state can’t rule with retroactive laws to judge those who took part in a war. And now they even reward terrorists (for last year’s Political Detainees’ Reparation Act) while they continue funding organization like Mothers of Plaza de Mayo who are the mothers of those terrorists. What about the other side’s victims? Fortunately, something is changing in society and I strongly believe in young people who are heading a new revisionist movement to amend our history.