The Washington Post - 24.10.2019

(Nancy Kaufman) #1

T H U R S D A Y , O C T O B E R  2 4,  2 0 1 9 .  T H E  W A S H I N G T O N  P O S T EZ RE A


that temporarily, but not perma-
nently. And we did it for 10 dec-
ades.”

Nostalgia vote
Yet for nostalgia-prone Argen-
tines, the feel-good days of Per-
onism are a strong draw — so
strong that the Fernández-
Kirchner ticket scored a 16-
percentage-point lead over Macri
in the nation’s all-parties primary
in August, a result widely seen
as predicting the election Sun-
day. If no candidate wins more
than 45 percent of the vote, or at
least 40 percent with a 10-point
lead, the top two go to a run-
off next month in which analysts
say Macri might have a chance.
Kirchner, insiders here say, opt-
ed to take the vice-presidential
slot for pragmatic reasons. She
has a strong base estimated at
between 25 percent and 35 per-
cent. But her ceiling is low, in part
because of her personal scandals.
They include a daughter who is
purportedly being treated in Cuba
for medical problems but who
critics say is actually avoiding
prosecution at home in a corrup-
tion case linked to a safe-deposit
box with $4.6 million in cash.
The calculation Kirchner
made, analysts said, is that as vice
president, she could bring her
core voters to the table while al-
lowing Fernández to win the votes
of those who intensely dislike her.
Viviana de Matteis, 55, owns a
gym in Buenos Aires. She’s seen a
20 percent drop in business over
the past year.
“I can’t stand her, but I’m going
to vote for them anyway,” she said.
“She’s corrupt, but I’m voting with
my pocketbook. Macri can’t get
anything done.”
anthony.faiola@washpost.com

sidies on electricity and cooking
gas granted to them under Kirch-
ner’s husband, former president
Néstor Kirchner, who traded Ar-
gentina’s top job with his wife
before dying of a heart attack in
2010.
Yet Martínez voted for Macri in


  1. For one, Kirchner wasn’t on
    the ballot, having reached the
    limit of two consecutive terms.
    “But we also believed Macri,
    that he would change Argentina
    and create a better life,” Martínez
    said. “That was a lie. All he did was
    help the rich and forget the poor.”
    Macri’s move to curb subsidies
    coupled with inflation, Martínez
    said, has more than quadrupled
    the price he pays for electricity. At
    the same time, measures taken by
    Macri to restore faith in the econ-
    omy — such as the IMF bailout —
    simply have not worked, while
    attempts to prop up the peso and
    improve government balance
    sheets have burned through re-
    serves and brought a prolonged
    recession.
    In the midst of the downturn,
    Martínez lost his full-time job at a
    construction company, and is
    now putting food on the table for
    a family of five by bartering clean-
    ing services at slaughterhous-
    es for meat — that is, when he isn’t
    collecting junk and cardboard on
    the streets to resell for subsis-
    tence cash.
    “What kind of life is this?”
    he asked. “This is what Macri has
    done to us.”
    “I know Cristina robs. But at
    least we were better off with her,”
    he said.
    Since the restoration of Argen-
    tine democracy in 1983, three of
    the major economic crises the
    country has suffered — a brutal
    bout of hyperinflation in the late
    1980s, a catastrophic debt default
    in the early 2000s and the current
    economic morass — have all oc-
    curred under non-Peronista gov-
    ernments.
    Critics say that’s because the
    Peronistas set economic time
    bombs before they leave office —
    spending far more than the na-
    tion earns to boost their populari-
    ty and influence, while distorting
    the economy by printing cash.
    But that, many here say, is a
    chronic problem hardly exclusive
    to Peronistas.
    “If I have to find a root for all
    the crises, it’s that permanently,
    for the past 100 years, there has
    been a fiscal deficit,” said Hernán
    Lacunza, Argentina’s treas-
    ury minister. “The state spent
    more than it collected. You can do


tional survival.”
To understand the Peronista
surge, drive 1^1 / 2 hours beyond the
belle epoque buildings and Pari-
sian-style balconies of elegant
Buenos Aires to the low-income
suburb of Jose C. Paz.
Here, Sebastian Martínez bit
the hand that fed him.
In 2009, the 38-year-old heavy-
machinery operator and his wife,
Yanina Sánchez, personally re-
ceived the keys to their new state-
built house from then-President
Kirchner. They also enjoyed sub-

nation and to Juan and Eva Perón.
So firm is the Peronista grip on the
country that even Macri’s surprise
pick of a running mate — Miguel
Ángel Pichetto, a 68-year-old, an-
ti-immigrant senator — hails
from the Justicialist center-right.
“When we have a [government]
that excludes Peronism, we al-
ways go back to Peronism,” said
Felipe Solá, a veteran Peronis-
ta widely tipped to be foreign
minister in a Fernández-
Kirchner administration. “Be-
cause that is [our] model of na-

her.
Argentines replaced her in
2015 with President Mauricio
Macri, the scion of a real estate
tycoon and a onetime darling of
Wall Street who promised to drag
the economy into the future. Like
Moreno in Ecuador, Macri ripped
cherished subsidies away from
the people and sought the assis-
tance of the International Mon-
etary Fund.
But the fruits of Macri’s la-
bor are a failed economy that is
now more moribund than the one
he inherited. The cost may be his
job. Should Macri lose Sunday, it
would also prove a theory: that
only the rough-and-tumble,
union-backed Peronista machine
can truly rule unruly Argentina.

‘We always go back’
In its early-20th-century hey-
day, Argentina, blessed with fer-
tile plains that made it a global
breadbasket, was richer than Ja-
pan and had more cars than
France. But from the ashes of the
Great Depression came not a re-
birth but a long, slow decline
marked by destructive military
governments and the populism of
Perón.
Since the 1940s, the center of
gravity of the Peronista move-
ment — officially, the Justicialist
Party — has swung between the
political right and left. Today, it
encompasses schools of thought
across the ideological spectrum,
uniting politicians who share
only a religious devotion to the

2015, she towers over presidential
candidate Alberto Fernández, a
former palace adviser and now
her lesser-known running mate.
“You could say that Cristina is
the continuation of Evita,” said
Gonzalo Alderete Pagés, the pro-
prietor of Santa Evita. “Cristina is
in our hearts, and we are sure of
her return. Where non-Peronistas
fail, she succeeds in opening her
arms to the working class.”
In Argentina, this is the season
of the Peronista renaissance, built
on a coalition of a disillusioned
middle class, the left-leaning
young and an increasingly angry
poor. And as Sunday’s elec-
tion approaches, the battle lines
being drawn here are over popu-
lism and corruption — the same
toxic mix now touching off unrest
across South America.
In Ecuador this month, the
government fled the capital be-
fore the advance of thousands
of union members, students and
indigenous protesters demon-
strating against austerity mea-
sures announced by President
Lenín Moreno as a corrective to
his populist predecessors. In
Chile, cost-of-living pressures and
persistent economic inequality
have sparked days of the most
violent protests seen in years. And
in Peru, a political class tainted by
corruption is at war with itself,
setting up a constitutional crisis
and legislative elections in which
some candidates are poised to
campaign from jail.
In Argentina the Peronistas,
opponents say, ran the nation into
the ground during their last out-
ing, when Kirchner is alleged to
have falsified financial data, raid-
ed pension funds, doled out social
handouts and solicited bribes
even as she forged allegiances
with allies such as Hugo Chávez,
the father of Venezuela’s socialist
state. Though she enjoys immuni-
ty from incarceration as a sitting
senator, the 66-year-old leftist has
hit the campaign trail with nearly
a dozen criminal cases against


ARGENTINA FROM A


Argentine


populists


poised for


comeback


NATACHA PISARENKO/ASSOCIATED PRESS

ANTHONY FAIOLA/THE WASHINGTON POST
TOP: Former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner waves to
supporters in Santa Rosa, Argentina. ABOVE: Sebastian Martínez
and his wife, Yanina Sánchez, at their home outside Buenos Aires.
The two voted for President Mauricio Macri in the last election but
say they’re switching back to the Peronistas on Sunday.

e falling Argentine peso
e peso has lost 35 percent of its
value against the dollar since the
start of the year. Chart shows the
cost in dollars of 100 pesos.

0
Jan. 1, 2019 Oct. 1, 2019

$2.

$1.
$2.

THE WASHINGTON POST

Source: Argentine National Institute of
Statistics and Censuses

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