2013-10-24

Politics in Argentina: A foreigner’s impressions

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Article by Charlotte Amey Here in Argentina, legislative elections are to take place on Sunday to choose the new parliament under the incumbent President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (known simply as Cristina to give her a more approachable, amiable image). Bizarrely, a law dictates that shops aren’t allowed to sell alcohol up to 24 hours before elections, ostensibly to stop people turning up drunk to vote, but presumably also to lower the chances of violence after the results come out. Politics is a subject that most Argentines are passionate about, having not so long ago lived under a military dictatorship with a highly oppressive regime. A constant reminder of this period are the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, who unite every Thursday to protest for their lost children, who disappeared during the ‘Dirty War’ of the dictatorship in the late 70s/early 80s. Unsurprisingly then, the locals are protective of their democracy and political parties are numerous and mostly fairly left-wing. Voting is also obligatory, under penalty of a fine if you fail to do so. C Cristina with las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo   cr Cristina with her late ex-President husband and Juan and Evita Peron Cristina’s party, ‘Front for Victory’ (Frente para la Victoria), is one of the biggest political parties. It follows the Kirchnerist movement, which was created during Cristina’s late husband’s presidency. This movement bases itself on left-wing neo-Peronist ideology, a notoriously difficult concept to describe initiated by former president Juan Peron in 1945, which in simplistic terms can be described as a capitalist system with social benefits. There is a lot of pro-Cristina graffiti on the streets and in bars. The lower classes and those living outside the capital generally seem to be content with her in power because of the social benefits that do exist, and for her support of cultural phenomena, such as popular music like tango and cumbia, or the local slang ‘lunfardo’, which have been prohibited under previous dictatorships. g Pro-Cristina graffiti o That said, there are many people, mainly among the middle classes, businessmen and entrepreneurs, who are strongly against her leadership and blame her for the economic situation in the country, whose high inflation rate makes saving in pesos or expanding a business practically impossible. What is worse is that the government misrepresents inflation and exchange rates in order to keep up morale - so much so that The Economist has taken the government-allied statistical body, INDEC, off the records[1] - fuelling a black market that will give you twice as many pesos for your dollar than the official rate[2]. Protests are organised almost every week demanding better job security and for abortion to be legalised. There are some who see her as hypocritical for claiming to be the representative of the poor whilst indulging in substantial wealth herself, using private jets, undergoing plastic surgery, and, over the last 10 years, going from having 7 to 89 million pesos (1 to 15 million USD) in property[3], whilst INDEC claims that individuals should be able to live on 6 pesos per day (roughly 1 USD)[4]. Cristina has also faced accusations of corruption and money laundering, and thousands took to the streets last April in protest of a move to put the judiciary under governmental control[5]. There is even speculation as to whether her re-election in 2011 was rigged. Her attempt this year to win back the Falkland Islands, known here as ‘Malvinas’, is considered by some to have been a tactic to distract the nation from the country’s problems, an argument also raised concerning the 1982 military dictatorship’s invasion. However, it is nevertheless a subject close to the heart of many Argentines, who are taught at school that the islands are part of Argentina, and thus most consider that she was acting out of public interest. f Falkland Islands graffiti prWorkers’ protest The next presidential elections will be held in 2015, but the ones on Sunday will be a good indicator of the current general opinion on all the political parties. In the meantime, we await the fate of the governing party’s parliamentary percentage with bated, alcohol-free breath.

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