The Front for Victory is the party of Nestor Kirchner, who assumed the presidency in 2003, initiating an era of policies in defense of the needs of the people, continued by the presidency of Cristina Kirchner. The policies of the Front for Victory have established a low rate of unemployment of 5.9% in Argentina and a reduction of government debt to its lowest level since 1976, and they have led to significant gains in education, health, and science and technology, including the establishment of nineteen universities. In addition, the Kirchner governments have nationalized the petroleum industry and the airlines, and they have created other public companies that have contributed to national development. The Kirchner governments brought to an end an era of neoliberal governments that had defended corporate interests and that had generated intense waves of popular protest. In addition to defending the rights of the people in Argentina, they also played an important role in the process of Latin American union and integration.
The Right won the November 22 presidential elections in Argentina with the strategy that the Latin American Right has been using in opposition to the progressive governments that have taken power during the last fifteen years: forming a new political party, taking into account the fact that the traditional political parties have been discredited by their collusion in the implementation of the neoliberal project of the global powers during the 1980s and 1990s; making promises that are supportive of popular desires, such reducing poverty, expanding the economy, extending the reach of social programs, improving housing, and launching campaigns against corruption and crime, without providing specifics or a developed plan; developing a media campaign designed to discredit the progressive governments, playing on the fact that no government, no matter how committed to the people, can fully deliver on all of the people’s hopes; and offering candidates with a certain degree of popular appeal. Corporate ownership of the media, which plays an intense role in the campaigns, makes the success of the strategy possible. Representative democracy, as distinct from popular democracy, is vulnerable to this kind of demagogic maneuver, and it is particularly successful in influencing the middle class (see “Popular Democracy” 11/6/2013, found in the category on the American Revolution).
This is not the first setback of the Left in the current wave of Latin American governments, initiated by the election of Hugh Chávez as president of Venezuela in 1998: the party of Chávez failed to win a constitutional reform referendum in 2007; the president of Paraguay, a former Catholic Bishop who emerged to defend the poor and who was elected in 2008, was removed from office by a legislative coup d’état; and the constitutionally-elected president of Honduras, who represented a traditional political party but was moving toward closer relations with the most radical governments of the region, also was removed from office in a legislative coup d’état in 2009. But the presidential elections in Argentina on November 22 mark the first time in the current progressive stage in Latin America that a Leftist government has been removed from power by an electoral process.
What happens now in Argentina? The Front for Victory remains strong in the legislature and in the provincial governments. It likely will attempt to block any effort to reverse the policies that have resulted in an improvement of conditions of life for the people. Insofar as the new government considers certain progressive policies untouchable, as a result of their evident benefits for the people, such policies would become consolidated, accepted even by governments of the Right. On the other hand, to the extent that the government seeks to reverse policies that defend the needs of the people, it could generate intense popular mobilizations that would undermine its capacity to govern, as occurred with the governments of the neoliberal era. The political game of the Right is inherently contradictory: it comes to power through a vaguely populist rhetoric, but then it seeks to govern in the interest of national and international corporations. To the extent that it adopts pro-corporate measures that have anti-popular consequences, its true character is made manifest.
Thus far, on the one hand, the government of Macri has promised to keep intact the nationalizations and the social programs of the Kirchner governments and to continue cooperation with the governments of the region in the process of Latin American and Caribbean union and integration. On the other hand, the Macri cabinet has been staffed with former directors of multinational corporations and with persons who are linked to the military dictatorship of 1976; and the government has indicated its orientation to free-trade agreements, it has eliminated protection of the national currency, and it has decreed a new law over the media of communication.
The Media Law of Argentina was approved by the National Congress in 2009. It sought to democratize the media, which has been under the control of the media conglomerates, and to ensure a plurality of voices. It established the Federal Authority of Audiovisual Communication Services (AFSCA for its initials in Spanish) and the Federal Authority of Information and Communication Technologies (AFSTIC) as state organisms with autonomy. The new Macri government issued a decree placing the functions AFSCA and AFSTIC under the direct authority of the Ministry of Communications through a newly-created National Entity of Communications (ENACOM). The degree has generated popular protest in defense of the 2009 Media Law.
The Macri government’s elimination of protection of the national currency defends the interests of corporations and has negative consequences for the people. The value of Argentinian peso fell with respect to the US dollar, with the rate of exchange going from 9.7 to 14.7 pesos for the dollar, a devaluation of 34%. The result was an increase in prices for domestic goods sold in pesos, such as beef, wheat and water, according to a consumers’ association, diminishing the purchasing power of the people. A leader in the truckers’ union has calculated that the workers would need a salary increase of 28% to compensate for the devaluation and attending inflation. On the other hand, the devaluation benefits exporting companies, which receive dollars for exported goods and at the same time pay salaries in Argentinian pesos. It is estimated that the estate bourgeoisie will have an additional four to eight billion dollars in profits for their sales of beef, wheat, corn and soy bean.
Such elimination of government protection of national currencies was one of the principal components of the neoliberal project imposed on the peoples of the world in the 1980s and 1990s, giving rise to popular movements of indignation, which in Latin America led to the sweeping aside of traditional political parties and the establishment of a different political reality from the period of 1998 to 2015. The Latin American Right at the present time hopes that the presidential elections in Argentina are the beginning of the end of the era of progressive governments in Latin America. But we could be in a moment in Argentina in which the reforms of the Left are consolidated, accepted even by governments of the Right; or in which a new wave of popular rejection demonstrates the political impossibility of the agenda of the Right in Latin America. Either would reinforce the Latin American movement toward governments that defend the people and the nation, standing in opposition to the neoliberal and militarist policies of the global elite, which seeks to defend its privileges and its interests at all costs, creating a precarious condition for humanity.
Key words: Macri, Scioli, Front for Victory, Argentina, Kirchner, devaluation, media