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CLARIN

Argentina Measures The Political Price Of Financial Crisis

A worsening economy in Argentina may cause political shifts before the 2019 presidential elections.

Protesters in the midst of a strike against Mauricio Macri's government in Buenos Aires
Protesters in the midst of a strike against Mauricio Macri's government in Buenos Aires
Rosendo Fraga

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES —Economic, social or political affairs never exist in a vacuum. The ways each affects the other winds up creating, deepening or appeasing any given crisis.

Argentina's shaky economic conditions will likely have an impact on general elections scheduled for October 2019. And in the meantime, while the economy is expected to bounce back before then, there is no assurance that ordinary people will feel its benefits and decide to vote for the sitting government of President Mauricio Macri. Indeed, public sentiment may worsen between now and then.

The economy can decisively affect and even hasten social developments. The effects of price devaluation can hit within weeks, while job creation may take months to affect the public mood. A year ahead of elections, the economy is causing poverty, unemployment, and the income gap to worsen. Social conflict works, in turn, through a "spring mechanism" with accumulated tensions and a trigger, which is always difficult to identify. In Argentina, social tensions started rising in April when market volatility began about six months ago.

argentina_protests_government_macri

Argentinian trade unions take to the streets — Photo: Patricio Murphy/Zuma

Trade unions and social movements have meanwhile organized several important protests, which, for the moment, have contained and channeled these tensions, avoiding an eruption.

By late September, these movements converged in national-scale protests. In recent weeks, social organizations led gatherings outside different government headquarters and backed hardline trade-union sectors in strikes and other actions on September 24. They were also participants in the general strike of September 25.

Just being in power can assure you as much as a third of all votes.

This is President Macri's fourth general strike, and the second in three months. The question is, if — or when — social protests will spill over. In the 72 hours between August 31 and September 3, for example, there were 21 reported lootings or attempted lootings in seven provinces, leading to 160 arrests. One teenager was killed in Sáenz Peña in northern Argentina. These are alarms on social protests coming out of the "structures."

Politics has its own calendar. One may assume that Cambiemos, the presidential party, will be a competitive option in next year's election. Just being in power can ensure as much as a third of all votes, even in adverse conditions. That could take the party to a second round. The last president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, will probably be running in spite of the half-dozen court cases she faces, perhaps heading a "personal" coalition, as she did in 2017. A third space may belong to anti-Kirchner: Peronism, the social-democratic movement from which Mrs. Kirchner emerged. It is already calling itself "federal" (though others qualify it as "rational") and presently leaderless and without a candidate. But it seems a valid alternative, with the economy working against Cambiemos and corruption tainting the Kirchner crowd.

A second round between Cambiemos and Kirchner's movement would favor the government, as anti-Kirchner Peronism could split between the two. But the government should be wary of a second round between itself and non-Kirchner Peronists. Kirchner herself could neutralize the benefits of an economic improvement for the government.

Yes indeed, the old dictum holds about the decisive connection between economic, social and political forces. We just have to wait until 2019 to see how it all plays out.

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Society

Parenthood And The Pressure Of Always Having To Be Doing Better

As a father myself, I'm now better able to understand the pressures my own dad faced. It's helped me face my own internal demands to constantly be more productive and do better.

Photo of a father with a son on his shoulders

Father and son in the streets of Madrid, Spain

Ignacio Pereyra*

-Essay-

When I was a child — I must have been around eight or so — whenever we headed with my mom and grandma to my aunt's country house in Don Torcuato, outside of Buenos Aires, there was the joy of summer plans. Spending the day outdoors, playing soccer in the field, being in the swimming pool and eating delicious food.

But when I focus on the moment, something like a painful thorn appears in the background: from the back window of the car I see my dad standing on the sidewalk waving us goodbye. Sometimes he would stay at home. “I have to work” was the line he used.

Maybe one of my older siblings would also stay behind with him, but I'm sure there were no children left around because we were all enthusiastic about going to my aunt’s. For a long time in his life, for my old man, those summer days must have been the closest he came to being alone, in silence (which he liked so much) and in calm, considering that he was the father of seven. But I can only see this and say it out loud today.

Over the years, the scene repeated itself: the destination changed — it could be a birthday or a family reunion. The thorn was no longer invisible but began to be uncomfortable as, being older, my interpretation of the events changed. When words were absent, I started to guess what might be happening — and we know how random guessing can be.

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