December 17, 2014
Yesterday was not a landmark Independence Day like the 200th anniversary now only two years away but by no means was it a routine celebration — if Charles Dickens began A Tale of Two Cities with the famous line: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” there was something of that spirit yesterday. Obviously it was never going to be a run-of-the-mill Independence Day with Argentina playing a World Cup semi-final and through to the final for the first time in 24 years. This national moment of truth completely overshadowed the ceremonies themselves (perhaps mercifully) but these were newsworthy. In the absence of an ailing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, they were presided by a controversial Vice-President Amado Boudou up to his neck in court indictments — hardly the best context for delivering the kind of epic rhetoric befitting the occasion (never Boudou’s strongest suit at the best of times). Furthermore, Argentina’s future is conditioned by courtroom decisions abroad as much as at home — markets may have been closed for yesterday’s public holiday but this is a decisive month in the litigation with “vulture” creditors. Last but perhaps not least, July also features the BRICS summit in Brazil with a possible invitation to Argentina to join.
Ideally the ceremonies in Tucumán should not have prompted any editorial comment whatsoever — given that the eyes of the nation were on Sao Paulo anyway and given the delicate nature of an indicted vice-president replacing an ailing president, there was every argument for making the occasion as boringly and aseptically institutional as possible. Boudou did indeed keep his speech short (11 minutes) but instead of following this script, he insisted on overcompensating with a heavily Peronist harangue at odds with both this truly national occasion and his own neo-conservative past. Meanwhile political infighting reared its head in the form of the ostentatious and perhaps gratuitous chill with which Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo greeted Boudou, presumably to promote a presidential candidacy based on his own variant of Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli’s slogan of “continuity with change.”
Meanwhile yesterday’s soccer match best expressed the core nationalism appropriate to the occasion — some Independence Days may be held in the best of times and others in the worst but no circumstances should change the underlying significance of the national sovereignty born on a Ninth of July.