Opinion: A Tragic Loss for Democracy in Argentina

Argentina is a nation of “wealthy misery”. Wealthy misery, a term meant to explain the unique situation in which a country gifted with abundant natural resources, territory, and a suitable amount of population finds itself in the precarious political and unstable economic state that Argentina now finds itself in.

Argentina, despite having the fourth largest shale oil and gas reserves in the world, is not self-sufficient in that sector and requires imports of foreign oil. This fact is representative of the nation’s inability to utilize its resources, a situation worsened by the corrupt Kirchner administrations, who were elected out of office in 2015 but have since been re-elected after President Mauricio Macri‘s failure to undo their mistakes, as well as having several of his own. His loss, especially the margin of it, sent ripples of anxiousness all over Argentina’s markets, and its traditional rival Brazil (itself in the middle of a tumultuous time) claimed superior economic power over Argentina. But what exactly did the Kirchners do?

For one, corruption became the law of the land. An episode involving a taxi driver who delivered bribes (all recorded in his notebook), including a couple to President Cristina Kirchner‘s house, and later turned himself in and presented his notebooks to officials came to be known as the Notebook Scandal. The fact that despite clear evidence for wrongdoing Kirchner was still able to get herself elected as vice-president on a ticket in which she was the dominant force suggests fanaticism and/or even more corruption and bribery.

This fanaticism has actually polarized the country, with the infamous youth movement La Campora (headed by Kirchner’s son, Maximo Kirchner) comparable to the reputedly violent Antifa. You will find La Campora’s presence almost everywhere in Argentina; as you drive, you will see houses proudly displaying their emblem, and in conversation, you might find yourself listening to a native Argentine complaining about the group’s behavior. Many even blame them for the notorious traffic jams caused by protests in Buenos Aires’s Playa de Mayo.

To pile on to these problems some attribute to the Kirchners (Cristina Kirchner’s husband Nestor Kirchner was also president) the aforementioned inflation. When Cristina Kirchner succeeded her husband as president in 2007, one US dollar was worth 3 Argentine pesos. When she left, however, in 2015, it was worth 9 pesos. This pattern gradually continued under President Macri, of the opposing party, until 2017, when one US dollar was worth 15 pesos. After that, the peso’s worth in comparison to the dollar plunged, and as of November 2019, one US dollar is worth almost 60 pesos.

And while it may be fair to put some of the blame on her successor, it should be noted that many financial experts have suggested that the economic policies of her time set the stage for the rampant inflation that came to define Macri’s time in office. If the future seemed dim when people thought Macri would win reelection, its a gaping mouth of darkness under the leadership of the Kirchner dynasty.

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