Argentina is a case in point. In the context of a situation of economic crisis and political turmoil, including demonstrations so massive that they resulted in a series of short-lived governments, Nestor Kircher was named president in 2003, and he took measures in defense of the people that resulted in economic and political stability. His two terms of office were followed with two administrations of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. The four Kirchner governments of 2003-2015 were characterized by: reduction of external debt; challenges to the regulations of the international finance agencies, including a refusal to pay the debts of the “vulture funds,” state debts that had been purchased at only a small fraction of their original value; the development of programs in education, health, and science; nationalization of key industries; and cooperation with the leftist governments of the region in the forging of a process of Latin American unity and integration, seeking to transform the structures of neocolonial domination (see “The Right takes power in Argentina” 01/04/2016 in the category Latin American Right).
The election of Mauricio Macri as president of Argentina in 2015 was seen by some as an indication that the leftist cycle was coming to an end. Macri defeated Daniel Scioli, the candidate of the party of Cristina, by 2.64 percentage points. Macri had campaigned on a promise of change and improvement, without specifics. He was able to benefit from a level of popular satisfaction with the Kirhcner governments, resulting from idealist popular conceptions with respect to the changes that are possible. And he benefitted from the fact that Cristina herself was not on the ballot, as a result of term limits. At the present time in Latin America, popular consciousness has not attained full political maturity, with the result that, on the one hand, idealist concepts and unrealistic expectations are still prevalent; and on the other hand, there is political identification with charismatic leaders rather than with political parties that have collective leadership.
Although he did not campaign on a neoliberal agenda, once in office Macri took the neoliberal road, which the people have sufficient political maturity to reject. One of his first steps was to end Argentina’s conflict with international finance capital by agreeing to its demands with respect to vulture funds, thus putting the state in a position of overextended debt. He then proceeded to cut social programs and amend social and economic policies of the Kirchner governments, returning to the “structural adjustment program” of the neoliberal area. And he reoriented foreign policy and foreign commerce, limiting Argentinian participation in the process of unity and integration in the region. With Macri’s neoliberal agenda increasingly manifest, his government declined in popular approval, and in addition, neoliberal policies were leading to serious problems in the national economy, further undermining popular support.
The decline in support of the government of Macri was evident in the first round of the presidential elections on August 11. Alberto Fernández, with Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as candidate for Vice President, attained 47.66% of the vote; Macri was fifteen points behind, with 32.09%. Roberto Lavagna was third with 8.23%; and three other candidates received between two and three percent each. The second round of the elections will be in October.
If the “Front of All” political formation of Fernández and Fernández wins in October, the return to a progressive agenda is not necessarily guaranteed, because Left-Center alliances have complexities. However, the electoral results of August 11 illustrate the incapacity of the Right in political power to maintain popular support, and they provide evidence that points to the unsustainability of the political-economic project of the Right in the context of the current Latin American political reality.