Argentina’s Economy Buckles After Leader Puts Politics First

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez in late March sent Economy Minister Martin Guzman to hold meetings with U.S. officials and the International Monetary Fund over its $45 billion loan, Bloomberg News reported. Back home, Fernandez’s populist vice president took to the microphone to make one thing clear. “We can’t pay because we don’t have the money,” said Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who held the nation’s top job from 2007 to 2015. The IMF’s terms are “unacceptable.” It was a telling moment. When Fernandez, 62, took office in the final days of 2019, he presented himself as pragmatic. True, he’d briefly been Kirchner’s chief of staff within the Peronist left but he accepted a role for capitalism and wouldn’t allow Kirchner and her loyalists to set the agenda. In recent days, Kirchner further asserted her influence by stopping the removal of an ally, a deputy energy minister in charge of key electricity prices. “It’s evident that the president is backing the core Kirchner wing of his coalition,” says Jimena Blanco, director of Latin America research at consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft in Buenos Aires. “That’s going to create more tension and uncertainty.” Indeed, six months before midterm elections, pragmatism is a distant memory. A strategy that puts political decisions above everything has squashed any plan to boost exports, lower inflation and kick-start growth. Exacerbated by the pandemic and too few vaccines, a rudderless economy is having its revenge. Read more.