The Argentine writer and political analyst Jorge Asís (Avellaneda, 1945) dedicates half a week to fiction and the other half to dissecting the reality of the South American country. He admits that not infrequently what he imagined in his novels has fallen short. Among the unexpected of the first two years of Alberto Fernández as president highlights “his ability to make mistakes” and have “squandered” half of his term in “mismanaging the problems of the country and continue behind them.” He claims not to be a Peronist, but rather a Peronologist, and gives different definitions of the central movement of Argentine politics for seven decades: “Peronism is the right of the left and simultaneously it is the left of the right,” “it is capitalism with social justice”.
From his office, located in a downtown Buenos Aires deserted by the covid-19 pandemic, Asís dialogues with EL PAÍS about the electoral campaign for the November legislatures and the renewed Cabinet after the internal fight between Fernández and his vice president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for the defeat at the polls in the primaries on September 12.
Question. The ruling Frente de Todos is a coalition. After the changes in the Cabinet, what Peronism governs today in Argentina?
Answer. Kirchnerism, in moments of offensive, enters with transversality and progressivism. When it goes wrong, it retreats and adopts the Peronist identity as if it were a shield, which is the one that today takes over the nation and the province of Buenos Aires. Still no dimension is taken of what it means [el nuevo jefe de Gabinete], Juan Manzur.
P. How would you define Juan Manzur and what role will you assume?
R. I call Manzur the Menemcito [por Carlos Menem, presidente de Argentina entre 1989 y 1999]. Of course, progressives don’t like it because it responds to a more traditional Peronist structure and is religious and conservative. But he has governors with him, mayors (mayors), trade unionists, very good relations with the North and with Israel. In other words, everything that the opposition had prepared as a battery to demolish the government, like saying that it was taking you to Venezuela, is now useless. Manzur is dedicated to solving, as when the first day he sat down and said: why don’t we end this issue of the pandemic? And he went out to announce the relaxation and that the chinstraps were not necessary. Now it is going to do the same with the stocks for the export of meat.
P. Fernández de Kirchner asked Manzur in the letter he made public on the networks. Did you come out stronger with the changes?
R. No, they all lost. The defeat at the polls was purifying for the Government because it forces it to see how to solve it. The permanent state of tension between Alberto and the doctor had generated an administrative paralysis. Nobody signed anything. Problems piled up and weren’t resolved.
P. Do you see it possible for the ruling party to reverse the defeat in November?
R. The Government is wrong if the measures it is applying now are for the November elections. Pretend that in November you already lost and dedicate yourself to governing the two years that you have ahead. You will have one less senator, but dedicate yourself to governing.
P. If you lose senators and deputies, is governability complicated?
R. It can govern perfectly.
P. What power does the president hold and what will he look like in the campaign?
R. In the campaign he will be absent due to political necessity, due to discredit. There will be a provincialization of the elections, not a national campaign. In the meeting of the governors with the president they said that each governor was responsible for his election. What is said to the president in the background? Don’t ever come.
P. Looking ahead to 2023, what are the main challenges facing the Government?
R. I think the first thing you have to do is build trust and solve the fundamental economic issues, like fixing the debt and getting back financially sound. Poverty is another problem, almost half of the population is poor. But here they ask a lot when Argentina began to fall.
P. When and why?
R. Argentina has been in trouble since the birth of the twins, Peronism and anti-Peronism, in 1945.
P. How can this crack, the permanent oscillation of Argentina from one side to the other, be resolved?
R. I am quite optimistic. Not for my generation, which is plagued with resentments and divisions, but for the generation of those who are now 45, 50 years old. Sergio Massa [presidente de la Cámara de Diputados] is perfectly understood with [el alcalde de la ciudad de Buenos Aires, Horacio] Rodríguez Larreta and with [la exgobernadora macrista] Maria Eugenia Vidal. There is a generation that allows us to think that problems are going to be solved. If you ask me, what must be done in Argentina is to plant the foundations of a tolerable capitalism, that is what should not be discussed. Perhaps in the Frente de Todos there are some who think of some distributive or accumulation possibility that has nothing to do with capitalism, but the only capitalist project that existed in Argentina arose from a side of Peronism: Menem.
P. When analyzing the electoral results, he pointed out that Argentine society had shifted to the right. Does society demand these types of measures?
R. Yes. Peronism always had a special location pituitary. Peronism is the ideology of power. With one condition, that it is power that signs the keys to ideology. At this moment, you realize that, in order to maintain power, there is an ideological course to the right, in Argentina and elsewhere. [Javier] Milei manages to convince even the poor that rebellion is liberalism, that the new thing is to be liberal, and it seems very valuable to me. What am I challenging you? His antipolitical discourse from politics.
P. How is the opposition after the victory at the polls?
R. Today I see Rodríguez Larreta as the one who is stronger, the natural candidate and the most sensible, because he knows that he has to fix. They will still have to settle their internal questions, but [el neurólogo y candidato en la interna de la coalición macrista, Facundo] Manes, you are not going to get him out of the presidential candidacy so easily and Mauricio Macri expects a kind of operative outcry that will put him back at the center. It gets very interesting and in Peronism too, because until the defeat the one who came in front was [el gobernador de la provincia de Buenos Aires, Axel] Kicillof. I do not rule out the doctor and Alberto can dream of re-election, although today it seems quite premature and illusory.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.