The political truce seems finally consummated. The vice president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, gave a long speech this Friday in which she, for the first time, did not publicly attack or humiliate the president, Alberto Fernández. She had, yes, a target. Kirchner charged harshly against the former Minister of Economy, Martín Guzmán, who presented his resignation from office on Saturday, without prior notice and through social networks. It was “an act of enormous political irresponsibility”, “ingratitude” and “institutional destabilization”.
Martín Guzmán left the Government during the weekend. It was a very hard blow for President Fernández, who had been defending his administration for more than two years against the ruthless attacks of Kircherism. After the agreement with the IMF, in January, Kirchner began a slow but persistent demolition job. The result was the departure of Guzmán, but also the definitive break with Fernández. Finally, the fear of chaos ended up bringing the president and his vice president closer again. In the week that followed Guzmán’s departure, inflation soared, Argentina’s debt bonds collapsed and the Central Bank burned $700 million of its reserves to contain the fall in the value of the peso. The government spokeswoman, Gabriela Cerruti, even had to clarify that “the president is in control of the country”, in case there were any doubts.
The acceleration of the crisis acted as a balm on the fights in the palace. When Cristina Kirchner announced that she would speak at an event in El Calafate, the Patagonian city where she spends her free time, social networks wondered who would now be the ejected minister from the Cabinet. During his last two appearances, Production, Matías Kulfas, and Guzmán lost their positions. “I’m not going to beat up any minister, everyone stay calm,” she said at the start. And she immediately launched herself against Guzmán. “I believe that [su renuncia] it was an act of political irresponsibility and also an act of institutional destabilization. The world as it is, the country as it is, the dollar as it is. Letting the President know about it through a tweet seems fine to me. It was an act of immense ingratitude to the president. This president had banked that economy minister like no one else, even confronting his own coalition forces. Did he deserve this?” Kirchner wondered.
Fernández’s defense of Guzmán ended up ruining his relationship with Kirchner. The vice president never accepted the agreement that the former minister signed with the IMF in January, which she considered responsible for a fiscal adjustment that, sooner or later, would end in a defeat for Peronism in the 2023 general elections. Her son, deputy Máximo Kirchner , resigned at the time from the leadership of the ruling bloc in disagreement with Guzmán’s agreement. Since then, the relationship in the leadership of Peronism has only deteriorated.
“When the differences that we maintained due to the conditions that we agreed with the IMF were, all journalism, all the opposition, the entire establishment came out to talk about the rationality of the Minister of Economy. And who was the irrational? Now, looking at the time that has passed, I think that supporting the minister was seeking to confront us,” Kirchner said this Friday. If that was the goal, it was successful. But the elections are drawing near, and Kirchner fears losing what remains of his political capital. The new Minister of Economy, Silvina Batakis, has her approval.
The big question is what level of autonomy the official will have to comply with what seem to be conflicting agendas. She just assumed, on Monday, she said that in her plans is to meet the goals of fiscal deficit and monetary emission that Guzmán agreed with the Fund. President Fernández had asked him when he offered him the position. On Tuesday, Batakis told IMF head Kristalina Georgieva in person. But those goals are a bad word for Krichnerism, which only sees there a harsh adjustment with catastrophic consequences. Batakis is today a minister between two waters.
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