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argentina: pre-election fervor

Argentina, elections, president

Having been away from the journalistic side of things for WAY too long, there’s quite a bit to cover. Let’s get started with politics & wrap up a few loose ends…

Cavallo managed to get out of prison after scarcely three months as judges cited a lack of evidence to implicate him in illegal arms sales. And contrary to a previous court order to remain in the country, Cavallo managed to land a guest spot as Visiting Professor at the NYU Stern School of Business where he’s been since September 2002. Isn’t that great for him? Many wonder why a person so entangled with the downfall of Argentina would be teaching others to follow in his footsteps. But to give him a fair chance to defend himself, he has lots of articles in English on his  personal website. Investigations of an alleged Peronist plan to oust former President De La Rúa drag on, as well as investigating the former president’s involvement in the deaths of numerous protesters in December 2001. No one really cares about Menem’s Swiss bank account it seems. Duhalde is still President, having outlived everyone’s expectations. Roberto Lavagna flew in from a previous post in Brussels to take over as Economic Minister after a vote of no confidence was given to his successor, Remes Lemicov.

However, the big news in politics is the upcoming Presidential election in April. Oh boy. Campaign time is short since the victor will take office in May, & most candidates only recently announced their running mates. But who really cares? Not most Argentines. Below are the contenders thusfar & their status in the polls. Interestingly enough, Duhalde is not in the race & decided to place his support with Kirchner. Duhalde plans on getting into industry after he steps down & take a break from politics. It’s also surprising to me that a political party can nominate more than one candidate. Naturally each claims to tow the “true” party line. I can hardly believe Menem has the balls to run for President again… not to mention Rodríguez Saá, the ex-President-for-five-days.

Argentina, elections, president, 2003

The economy is the other major topic, as it has been for the past year. The dollar remains strong although it has been losing a little ground against the peso as of late. Last year’s record high of 4 pesos per dollar was a temporary fluctuation. For many months, the rate remained around 3.50 pesos per dollar. The graph belows shows the average trend of the dollar throughout the past year. All public services have been trying to raise rates & recently found approval in the Supreme Court to so. Unemployment is still amazingly high at around 30% —keep in mind that figure does not include underemployed workers or those working under the table. Imported objects hardly exist anymore & if you can find something from another country, its price is the equivalent in dollars. That’s to say no one is going to pay 12 pesos for a bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce. My breakfast routine suffered the prohibitive cost of imports… no more Special K cereal to be found in Argentina! Nowhere. When I returned from my tours in November 2002, I searched but in vain. So if anyone from Kellogg’s is reading this, please open a plant in Argentina. Now is the time!!!!

Other wonderful news is that the corralito has been disarmed so everyone has full access to their salaries again. The main problem now is the elimination of the corralón, which will undoubtedly be much more difficult. Most are waiting for a Supreme Court decision affirming that the reprogramming & forced devaluation of previous dollar deposits was unconstitutional. The manipulation of the public by the government has been extremely skillful, as there are no runs on the banks & everyone sitting around hoping the Supreme Court will come through for them. In my mind, this was the key element in the success of eliminating the corralito.

[Originally posted in Argentina Experienced, a website I created to document living in Buenos Aires after the 2001 economic crisis. Text has been edited for style. Definitions of econ terms can be found in the glossaryPolitician biographies may help, as well as a summary of recent history & current events.]

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