From the September-October 2018 issue of News & Letters
Argentina has been reeling much of this year, bouncing from one crisis to the next under President Mauricio Macri’s neo-liberal, anti-labor austerity rule. That is compounded by new corruption investigations against the Kirchner presidential regimes and by the refusal to change the draconian abortion restrictions despite massive protests by Argentine women.
PESO COLLAPSE AND MORE AUSTERITY
Since April the peso has lost 50% of its value versus the dollar. The working class and the poor will be forced to pay. Public utility hikes (electricity) combined with runaway inflation are the reality.
This follows last December’s anti-labor revision of pension benefits, which, despite massive protests, were rammed through Congress. As an unemployed teacher notes: “If this austerity continues, families are not going to have square meals on their tables.”
Macri has already negotiated a multi-billion dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund, which of course requires more cutbacks on public spending. It is quite clear that his indebtedness is to international capital at the expense of Argentina’s masses. Since his December 2015 surprise election, Macri’s economic policies have caused much pain and produced few, if any, positive results. The country is now headed into recession.
CORRUPTION AND THE KIRCHNERS
The so-called progressive regimes of Nestor and Cristina Kirchner of 2003-2015 are under attack for corruption. Notebooks have been found in which a driver kept meticulous records of carrying bags of cash from businessmen to government officials—payments totaling millions of dollars. Ex-government functionaries during the Kirchner administrations, plus more than a dozen businessmen, have been indicted.
It remains to be seen whether anyone, including Cristina Kirchner (who has immunity as a senator), will go to jail. Corruption was the hallmark of earlier regimes, and no one has ended up in jail.
ABORTION RIGHTS STRUGGLE
In August, after a major struggle mobilized thousands upon thousands of Argentine women and caught the attention of women’s reproductive rights activists throughout Latin America, the Argentine Senate narrowly defeated a bill creating limited rights for abortion. (See Editorial, “Catholic Church laid bare,”) But the Argentine women’s rights movement, Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) is far from giving up. Though the defeat, led by conservatives and the Catholic Church hierarchy, was bitter, the movement for reproductive rights is growing and needed, and not only in Argentina.
#NiUnaMenos has spread to other Latin American countries—Peru, Mexico and Colombia among them. The hashtag is used to denounce violence against women and demand reproductive rights. An estimated 97% of Latin American women live in countries that ban abortion or allow it only in rare instances.
Almost two decades ago—December 2001—Argentinians took to the streets in massive anti-government demonstrations, demanding, ¡Que se vayan todos! They all must go! and brought down the old regimes. But the new hardly got started before being diverted into electoral “solutions.” Today Argentina needs a movement that refuses to separate ¡Que se vayan todos! from building an authentically new kind of society.