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July 25, 2014
Sunday, February 2, 2014

The theory and practice of the red circle

BA City Mayor Mauricio Macri coined the phrase “Red Circle.”
By Mempo Giardinelli
For the Herald

A gov’t eroded by 10 years in power has to fight opposition, businessmen, unionists and media

One might think that this country’s woes could be explained by some “P v. E” (politics versus economics) power equation — an ancient and repeated confrontation which shakes up Argentine life every now and then.

Since it seems highly doubtful that E could ever reach the Pink House via elections, its inability to defeat P (this government) leads it to attack and condemn them not because of the good or evil they do (although they have their merits, especially in the social sphere) but because they despair of the opposition.

Fed up with trusting to dithering, opportunistic turncoats expert in moral blackmail, the business and media powers which really direct the struggle against the government are preparing for the final assault in full warpaint.

On the defensive because it has lost the dynamism and the ability to surprise and to define the agenda which characterized it throughout a decade, the Kirchnerite government (alias P) is showing its teeth and expressing its annoyance. But it does not take it any further, instead experimenting with one defensive move after another as it seeks to define a strategy which reverts its current stagnation. To give just one example, it condemns farmers for holding back millions of tons of soy but does not revive the National Grain Board which for so many years regulated grain exports and today would put more than one rogue in his place.

With a handful of newspapers and its powerful radio and television channels, E does what it knows best — tweak the mood of the general public or at least in the capital which is what counts at the end of the day. The economic assault is thus reinforced by a fatalistic, discouraging, inflationary and absolutely insensitive vocabulary, eroding all the advances and achievements of the last decade, which any objective analysis shows, with irrefutable data, to be the best millions of Argentines throughout the national territory have ever had.

At least until the 2015 elections and in any normal country, this struggle would continue in a civilized fashion until the change of government the voters decide and it would take the form of manoeuvres for space and winning hearts and minds. But this is Argentina and such an outcome would be unbearable for the eternal coupmongers — and it shows. That is why the foot is slamming down on the accelerator, assisted by the most powerful media in the world headquartered in New York, Madrid and Sao Paulo, and by all the other newspapers which dance to the same tune. That is the only reason why they have been winning recent battles — minor encounters but one after the other. Small-scale daily battles, territorially limited and spiritually miserable — above all in the psychological field. Just as in days of yore, they are preparing the middle and lower classes to accept suicide tamely one more time.

There is no pleasure in writing this and it sounds just as paranoid and conspiratorial as you might think but it is as if there were a coup d’état suspended in the air. Not the classical military variety but involving politicians, businessmen, trade unionists and the media. An entente too powerful to be fought by a government eroded by over 10 years in power.

Even so, the Kirchnerite government does not tremble but it is evident that is has been forced onto the defensive. And the one on the defensive is always the weak, or weakened, one while the one pushing forward (E) grows arrogantly, especially when deploying the massive media artillery which protagonizes this country’s politics today.

The question is thus very much bigger than whether eight to one is the right peso-dollar parity. Whatever the government’s economic policy might be, it will be fought again and again every day just because ... why not? Whatever happens and whatever anyone does, they will continue boycotting the economy because it is the only way to bring down this government.

Now we know what Mayor Mauricio Macri was talking about when he coined the phrase “Red Circle” last September — he thus revealed that those “who act and think” were conspiring against the national government with no other objective than to topple it ahead of the next elections. This was denounced last Thursday with brutal sincerity by the trade unionist Ricardo Pignanelli, the secretary-general of the powerful SMATA auto workers union: “They want to bring ahead the 2015 elections by entering into a political crisis.”

As if nothing had been learned, not even the basic axiom of respecting the mandates arising out of the popular vote, the “Red Circle” emits daily signals. While the President was in Havana and Macri in Davos, the anti-government CGT leader Hugo Moyano, true to his style, blurted: “Macri gave more to the workers than the national government” while demanding a 3,000-peso pay hike ahead of collective wage bargaining. At the same time Macri’s party which rules the national capital proposed “solidarity” with Shell’s Juan José Aranguren, who bought overvalued dollars in a clear manoeuvre to destabilize. Which Macri crowned last Thursday: “I hope that this is the final crisis of the government.”

And if it is true that by their words ye shall know them, there is always the editorial which the prestigious The New York Times dedicated to Argentina this week and which seems to have been written by an economist from the local establishment. Under the headline “Argentina on the brink,” the condemnation of Kirchnerism was sweeping — after the default of 2002 growth was due to a “tail wind” and the soy boom which was later “squandered” by “wasteful subsidies” and “printing banknotes.” “The financial crisis is caused by misguided government policies” and “unnecessary fights with private businesses and investors” and the nationalizations of YPF, Aerolíneas Argentinas and the AFJP private pension funds. With total frivolity and without giving any source, the editorial affirms that “a recent opinion poll showed that three-quarters of the country said the economy was headed in the wrong direction.”

Everything unsaid thus becomes clear — those taking power in this country will revert to privatization and outsourcing, shady deals shielded from the press, corruption in silence (worse than now, which least reaches the courts), the surrender of national assets and the elimination of all social subsidies. And obviously they will try to reverse human rights policies.

It is thus understandable why Paul Singer and his vulture fund celebrated the rejection of the proposal of the other funds finally to accept a decent payment plan. Not all happiness is decent.

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