Saturday, December 4

Alberto Fernández warns that Argentina “is not going to kneel before the IMF” | International

Hundreds of people pay tribute to President Néstor Kirchner, in Buenos Aires.
Hundreds of people pay tribute to President Néstor Kirchner, in Buenos Aires.Juan Ignacio RONCORONI (EFE)

And one day the Peronist march sounded again in Argentina. The Government of Alberto Fernández has tried to recover the mystique with the sound of the movement it represents. The president was the only speaker at a stadium located in Morón, on the outskirts of the Argentine capital, where Peronism commemorated on Wednesday the eleventh anniversary of the death of former president Néstor Kirchner. Before some 30,000 people and on a scene brimming with governors, mayors, trade unionists, candidates and politicians from the different currents that make up the government coalition, Fernández issued a warning to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with whom he negotiates new terms for payment of 44,000 million dollars. “If we still do not close an agreement with the Monetary Fund it is because we are not going to kneel,” he said. The rally was a studied display of unity, after the tensions that followed the electoral catastrophe of September 12, when the Peronist candidates lost in 18 of the 24 districts of the country.

Alberto Fernández’s message was addressed to the stands, eager to heal internal disputes. He relied on Néstor Kirchner, who died in 2010. A video recalled Kirchner’s payment to the IMF, which led to the closure of the offices that the multilateral had in Buenos Aires, and his government’s fight against inflation. Today, Argentina is negotiating with the IMF how to return the bailout it gave to the government of Mauricio Macri in 2018. It is also fighting a 50% annual inflation rate. They are the same problems as yesterday, but without the resources of then. Fernández is now torn between the need not to fall into default with the multilateral and the demands of the toughest sectors of the coalition so that it does not give in to the requirements of the Fund for an agreement.

A day before traveling to Rome to participate in the G20 summit, where he hopes to meet with the head of the Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, Fernández joined the slogan “first grow and then pay” with which Kirchnerism remembered its founder. “I am going to confront everything that is necessary and I am going to close with the Fund the day I know that this does not affect the future of Argentina. They ask me for a quick agreement, at any cost. No, we are not going to make an agreement that delays us any longer and that delays the Argentines who today have been postponed, “he said. Thus he yielded to the most radical positions of his support base, which last October 17, the day that Peronism celebrates its founding, harshly criticized him for sitting “at the table with the rich.” Fernández listened to the speeches that day from his office in the Casa Rosada and finally decided not to speak to the waiting crowd.

This Wednesday, everything was designed to avoid shocks. The distribution of the stands was evidence of the tensions. In the largest were the militants of La Cámpora, the Kirchner youth group; behind one of the arches sat the Evita movement, the social organization that most supports the Government; in the opposite arc was the Nuevo Encuentro party, which groups together the Kirchnerism of Morón. The playing field brought together the forces of the mayors of the suburbs and smaller groups. The only union presence was that of truckers, a powerful union that enters and leaves the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) depending on the occasion. The rest of the unions were on stage, with their leaders accompanying Fernández. The vice president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, was not in Morón because she has always preferred to follow the tributes to her husband from a distance. She was represented by her son, Deputy Máximo Kirchner.

It was, in any case, a meeting according to the needs and demands of the official vote. On September 12, the pre-candidates of the Government to Congress suffered a historical blow at the polls. If that result is repeated, and the polls anticipate that this will be the case, Peronism will lose control of the Senate and the first minority in Deputies. The macrista opposition, gathered in the Juntos por el Cambio front, would even be in a position to impose the name of a new president of the Lower House.

The week that followed the defeat was one of chaos in the Government. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner forced a cabinet change with the resignation of all the ministers who represent her. President Fernández had to sacrifice his chief minister and man of maximum confidence, Santiago Cafiero, to put in his place the governor of Tucumán (north), Juan Manzur. In an attempt to regain lost votes, Peronism clasped around its traditional forces: governors and unions. That this Wednesday the Peronist march sounded at the start of the rally has been part of that path to the origins. They are less than three weeks to know if that will be enough to come back at the polls.

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