4/8/2024 - Politics and Society

ARGENTINA: GRAND NATIONAL AGREEMENT OR PACT WITH ¨THE CASTE¨ TO AVOID A MAJOR CRISIS?

By Jose Daniel Salinardi

ARGENTINA: GRAND NATIONAL AGREEMENT OR PACT WITH ¨THE CASTE¨ TO AVOID A MAJOR CRISIS?

Facundo Manes, Javier Milei, Vilma Ibarra, Eduardo Eurnekian and Florencio Randazzo

Javier Milei's harsh speech at the National Congress against the Argentine political leadership, trade unions and businessmen who "live off the State" before calling them to a social pact with foundational characteristics. For the battered citizens who have to bear a strong adjustment of the economy...¨patience and trust¨.

As usual, on the first day of March of each year, the President of the Argentine Republic appears before the Legislative Assembly of his country (Deputies and Senators) to formally start the ordinary legislative session. The event, of great institutional importance, is attended by former presidents, governors and former governors, former legislators, members of the Supreme Court of Justice and members of the Armed and Security Forces that report to the National Executive Branch (Federal Police, National Gendarmerie, Naval Prefecture and Airport Security Police).

The full cabinet of the national government was present (in this case without the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Worship, Diana Mondino, who was absent due to a personal commitment: the wedding of one of her sons), and among the special guests were foreign diplomats, businessmen and representatives of the media accredited to cover the event. Milei's noisy supporters, who crowned every sentence of the president with shouts and applauses from the balconies of the Chamber of Deputies, were also present. We already have the context, let's go now to the content.

The title of this article tries to summarize the majority positions of political analysts, media, leaders of all fields and citizens after listening to Milei. Nothing new. Those who support him unconditionally speak of a historic speech, and those who doubted about the results of his management... now doubt even more.

Milei's presence in the National Congress was awaited with great expectation. The libertarian leader had already marked a difference with other presidents by choosing the time of his message: 9pm local time, for a Legislative Assembly that usually took place in the morning. At the end of his speech, not all those who were anxiously awaiting his words saw their hopes come true.

Milei's discursive strategy can be summarized as "strike to negotiate" (even though he hates this word). Our dear friend and political analyst, Fabián Calle, told us: ¨In politics, surprise is a very important asset. And Milei achieved it¨. Great definition by Fabián, although those who were surprised did not necessarily receive good news. Let's see

After a detailed review of the state of the country that he received (which we share), Milei took aim at the heart of the privileges of the political class and the unions. Some of his proposals are truly revolutionary: elimination of privilege retirements for president and vice president of the country, no more State funding to political parties, criminal punishment for officials who authorize monetary emission, impossibility to present candidacies of any kind by those who have firm judicial sentence in second instance (appeal), a labor reform that liquidates the union funds that enrich their leaders, the elimination of the intermediation of the so-called social organizations (the ¨poverty managers¨) in the distribution of social aid, among other hard blows to his main enemy: ¨the caste¨. All this while qualifying the legislators present as ¨coimeros¨ (bribers) who only defend their interests and privileges, personalizing the crisis in names such as Sergio Massa (his adversary in the second electoral round that consecrated him as president), Cristina Fernández, Máximo Kirchner and Juan Grabois.

He also had harsh concepts for the businessmen who have enriched themselves doing business with the National State, something that caught the attention because Milei himself and his Chief of Cabinet, Nicolás Posse, have worked in Corporación América, the company of Eduardo Eurnekian, a multimillionaire of Armenian origin that exploits the concession of the national airports under the name ¨Aeropuertos Argentina 2000¨. Among those present was also former President Mauricio Macri. His family's holding company, SOCMA (Sociedades Macri), collected multimillion-dollar amounts as concessionaire of highways and the Argentinean Post Office. Many, listening to Milei, also remembered when, under pressure from the then government of Carlos Menem (a man admired by Milei), the Argentine Supreme Court of Justice had to acquit the directors of Sevel Argentina SA, licensee of Fiat and Peugeot to manufacture and market vehicles under their brand, in a case for alleged smuggling and tax evasion taking advantage of an automotive exchange regime between Argentina and Uruguay. Franco Macri, Mauricio's late father, was the majority and controlling shareholder of Sevel.

In short, a pure Milei, against all. But the best was yet to come at the end: what surprise did the Argentine president have in store for corrupt politicians and officials, thieving trade unionists, "tax evaders" (referring to provincial governors who spend more than they collect and then pass the bill on to the national government), social leaders who profit from poverty, businessmen who pay bribes in exchange for business and end up passing that cost on to users and consumers? A pact. Yes, a pact. Javier Milei, starred in a historic event by summoning his worst enemies, and according to him, the Argentine people, to a meeting to be held on May 25 in the city of Córdoba to sign a document with political, economic and social content as a starting point for the institutional re-foundation of Argentina. As we said, historic. But also an express recognition of the political and legislative weakness of his government, as it was demonstrated when he had to withdraw from Congress the treatment of his publicized ¨omnibus law¨, and at a time when the Decree of Necessity and Urgency by which he implemented most of the reforms he is carrying out, is in serious danger of not being ratified by the Chamber of Senators.

¨If they want conflict, they will have conflict¨, threatened Milei before calling for an agreement with those he had just vilified before millions of people who followed him on radio, television, social networks and streaming. A pact that, as long as its executive content is not ratified by the provincial legislatures and the National Congress, will be only a document. Therefore, there is nothing new, beyond the laudable intention of the President to avoid an escalation in the generalized crisis suffered by Argentines. The government is gaining time and space in the media. The outcome remains uncertain.

We previously said that not everybody saw their expectations fulfilled with respect to Milei's announcements, and in the previous paragraph we referred to the battered pockets of Argentines. For them, no announcement of imminent relief, and only one request: ¨confidence and patience¨. At this stage of the events, and regardless of who is responsible for the crisis experienced by the citizens, it is too much to ask. Even more, if those who were listening or watching him, at the same time were with a calculator in hand checking how utility bills, taxes, food costs, the cost of educating their children, medicine and drugs, fuel and transportation, turn into a fantasy the ¨Argentina potencia¨ that Milei promises for 10 years from now. This cannot be asked of entire families who do not know how they are going to make it to next week. This is not an opinion, these are facts very easy to verify by going out to the street and talking to people.

What kind of agreement does Milei imagine with ¨the caste¨? Surely and true to his style, one where everyone has to do what he wants. There was already an advance: as a previous step to the agreement he asked that his ¨omnibus law¨ be treated again by ¨coimeros del Congreso¨. Obviously not only treated but also approved. If so, who will give back to the Argentines the time lost due to the whims and quarrels of their decadent political class?

The great national agreement that Milei calls for was already in place on December 10 when he took office, but he thought he could do it alone. Reality has shown him that it is not possible in view of the magnitude of the crisis and now he must negotiate, even if he does not like it, with those he came to fight against. Why should those who did not want to do it or rejected it now vote in favor of a law? Because of patriotism? Because of sectorial or personal interests? Because of money? Argentina continues to be a great unknown that Javier Milei still cannot solve.

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Jose Daniel Salinardi

Jose Daniel Salinardi

Jose Daniel Salinardi is a Certified Public Accountant graduated from the School of Economics of the University of Buenos Aires.

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