Historic Win for the Right in Argentina’s National Election
Maria Esperanza Casullo says, although Mauricio Macri carefully distanced himself from neoliberal economic policies, he won votes from both the richest and poorest Argentinians
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: In Argentina the right is celebrating what’s being called the biggest defeat for the South American left in a decade. On Sunday conservative opposition leader, Mauricio Macri, beat ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli in a runoff by a 51-48 percent margin. This ends 12 years of rule by the center-left Peronist party. With Macri’s victory the left in Argentina now fears an embrace of neoliberal economic policies to combat a stagnant economy and high inflation. Macri urged central bank officials to step down to pave the way for the liberalizations of Argentina’s economy. Here’s what he said.
[Video of Mauricio Macri speaking]
NOOR: Now joining us to discuss this from Argentina is Maria Esperanza Casullo. Just before the election she wrote that no matter who wins, the right will emerge stronger than it’s been in years. Maria is an associate professor at the Universidad Nationale de Rio del Negro in Argentina. Is also regularly published on Latin American politics, democracy, and populism. Thanks so much for joining us.
MARIA ESPERANZA CASULLO: Hi, how are you.
NOOR: Tell us what this victory means for the rise of the right wing in Argentina.
CASULLO: Well, this, this victory of Mauricio Macri represents a watershed in Argentine history, because it’s the first time in all of Argentine modern political history that the right basically has developed a mass party who is able to win competitive reelections. And more specifically, to do so by garnering support among the lower classes. Which was never the case before. In the 20th century, both the Peronist party and the radical party, which were our own two biggest parties, were much more middle class parties. Or in the case of Peronism, for a number of decades Peronism had the monopoly to say of the popular, poor, lower class vote, however working class vote, whatever you want to say. And the right could just–the members of the elite could not win elections by themselves. They usually resorted to military coup to win power. And that was basically one of the greatest sources of the political instability in Argentina.
And that now has changed. And this is the first time that we have Mauricio Macri, he’s the son, heir of one of the largest fortunes in Argentina, who has developed a party and has won. And has won by winning in the richest parts of the country, such as the northern neighborhoods of the city of Buenos Aires and southern parts of Cordoba and Santa Fe. But also winning in some of the poorest counties of provincial Buenos Aires. I mean, a northern province such as Jujuy. So that’s going to be a remarkable, remarkable moment.
NOOR: And so where does the appeal for what can be described as a candidate who’s going to implement neoliberal reforms? Where is the, talk about why that has so much appeal right now in Argentina.
CASULLO: Well, I think one of the fascinating issues in this election, and one thing that we’ve been discussing with some colleagues today, is that a lot of the voters for Cambiemos are not really sure what Cambiemos is going to do once it’s in power. I would say that one of the most intelligent decisions on the part of Macri’s campaign was to go very, very, very vague as to what are, they were going to do once in power. In fact, if you look at his campaign he has absolutely rejected every neoliberal position that people had tried to back him to, or that he had actually embraced in the past. This election was–.
NOOR: So for example, the ownership of some of the state-owned industries, correct?
CASULLO: Exactly. He made–his campaign made waves when a few months ago he said we are not going to reprivatize Aerolineas Argentinas, which is our national airline company, and we’re not going to reprivatize our state-owned oil companies. And he did that, and he was–of course, he went against what he had said in the past. And he went against what his own political party had voted in Congress, because his political party had voted against these two initiatives.
But this campaign was different. This campaign was–he really presented it as much more as a referendum vis-a-vis the current government, the Kirchner [inaud.] government. And he was very–and it was a very effective campaign in the sense that it really was able to convince a lot of people that they would, that they would continue with the things that Kirchner had done and people love, there are actually a lot of them, but he was going to change the things and the manners of Kirchner, is more that people don’t like, without giving too many specifics.
NOOR: And you know, it’s not in that distant memory for Argentinians, you have the 2002 economic collapse, which devastated Argentina’s economy. The unemployment rate was astronomical. It brought down a number of governments within a few short number of years. And resulting from that crash you have Argentina’s massive debt, which is still in the, over $100 billion. The previous administration had refused to pay off what were called vulture funds that sought to profit off this debt. What do we know about what might happen in the future now, with that debt?
CASULLO: Well, that’s one thing that Mauricio Macri has said a few months ago, that he thought that he had to pay to the vulture funds. Of course, that remains to be seen, whether they are going to do that. But I think that’s one of the great advantages that he, that his government can have, that Argentina right now is the country that has no external debt to speak of. So he–and actually, the foreign debt markets have been more than willing to loan money to Argentina once the situation with the vulture funds is resolved.
So I think, my speculation is, that his government is going to try to very quickly solve this vulture fund thing, even if it means paying up front. And then going back to the capital markets and restart a massive indebtment process for Argentina. And you start debt to offset inflation and to offset the cost of devaluation, and just be carried by that, by the newly-available dollars coming from external debt.
NOOR: Okay. Well, we want to thank you so much for joining us, and we’ll certainly be following this story, and we will keep an eye on what kind of policies this new government does implement.
CASULLO: Okay, thanks so much.
NOOR: Thank you for joining us at the Real News Network.
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