The presidential election in Argentina pitted the people against neoliberalism and the people won. What happens next will have a tremendous impact all over Latin America and serve as a blueprint for assorted Global South struggles.
South America, Again, Leads
Fight Against Neoliberalism
By Pepe Escobar
Special to Consortium News
The presidential election in Argentina was no less than a game-changer and a graphic lesson for the whole Global South. It pitted, in a nutshell, the people versus neoliberalism. The people won – with new President Alberto Fernandez and former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK) as his VP.
Neoliberalism was represented by Mauricio Macri: a marketing product, former millionaire playboy, president of football legends Boca Juniors, fanatic of New Age superstitions, and CEO obsessed with spending cuts, who was unanimously sold by Western mainstream media as the new paradigm of a post-modern, efficient politician.
Well, the paradigm will soon be evacuated, leaving behind a wasteland: $250 billion in foreign debt; less than $50 billion in reserves; inflation at 55 percent; the U.S. dollar at over 60 pesos (a family needs roughly $500 to spend in a month; 35.4 percent of Argentine homes can’t make it); and, incredible as it may seem in a self-sufficient nation, a food emergency.
Macri, in fact the president of so-called Anti-Politics, No- Politics in Argentina, was a full IMF baby, enjoying total “support” (and gifted with a humongous $58 billion loan). New lines of credit, for the moment, are suspended. Fernandez is going to have a really hard time trying to preserve sovereignty while negotiating with foreign creditors, or “vultures,” as masses of Argentines define them. There will be howls on Wall Street and in the City of London about “fiery populism,” “market panicking,” “pariahs among international investors.” Fernandez refuses to resort to a sovereign default, which would add even more unbearable pain for the general public.
The good news is that Argentina is now the ultimate progressive lab on how to rebuild a devastated nation away from the familiar, predominant framework: a state mired in debt; rapacious, ignorant comprador elites; and “efforts” to balance the budget always at the expense of people’s interests.
What happens next will have a tremendous impact all over Latin America, not to mention serve as a blueprint for assorted Global South struggles. And then there’s the particularly explosive issue of how it will influence neighboring Brazil, which as it stands, is being devastated by a “Captain” Bolsonaro even more toxic than Macri.
Ride that Clio
It took less than four years for neoliberal barbarism, implemented by Macri, to virtually destroy Argentina. For the first time in its history Argentina is experiencing mass hunger.
In these elections, the role of charismatic former President CFK was essential. CFK prevented the fragmentation of Peronism and the whole progressive arc, always insisting, on the campaign trail, on the importance of unity.
But the most appealing phenomenon was the emergence of a political superstar: Axel Kicillof, born in 1971 and CFK’s former economy minister. When I was in Buenos Aires two months ago everyone wanted to talk about Kicillof.
The province of Buenos Aires congregates 40 percent of the Argentine electorate. Fernandez won over Macri by roughly 8 percent nationally. In Buenos Aires province though, the Macrists lost by 16 percent – because of Kicillof.
Kicillof’s campaign strategy was delightfully described as “Clio mata big data” (“Clio kills big data”), which sounds great when delivered with a porteño accent. He went literally all over the place – 180,000 km in two years, visiting all 135 cities in the province – in a humble 2008 Renault Clio, accompanied only by his campaign chief Carlos Bianco (the actual owner of the Clio) and his press officer Jesica Rey. He was duly demonized 24/7 by the whole mainstream media apparatus.
What Kicillof was selling was the absolute antithesis of Cambridge Analytica and Duran Barba – the Ecuadorian guru, junkie of big data, social networks and focus groups, who actually invented Macri the politician in the first place.
Kicillof played the role of educator – translating macroeconomic language into prices in the supermarket, and Central Bank decisions into credit card balance, all to the benefit of elaborating a workable government program. He will be the governor of no less than the economic and financial core of Argentina, much like Sao Paulo in Brazil.
Fernandez, for his part, is aiming even higher: an ambitious, new, national, social pact – congregating unions, social movements, businessmen, the Church, popular associations, aimed at implementing something close to the Zero Hunger program launched by Lula in 2003.
In his historic victory speech, Fernandez cried, “Lula libre!” (“Free Lula”). The crowd went nuts. Fernandez said he would fight with all his powers for Lula’s freedom; he considers the former Brazilian president, fondly, as a Latin American pop hero. Both Lula and Evo Morales are extremely popular in Argentina.
Inevitably, in neighboring, top trading partner and Mercosur member Brazil, the two-bit neofascist posing as president, who’s oblivious to the rules of diplomacy, not to mention good manners, said he won’t send any compliments to Fernandez. The same applies to the destroyed-from-the-inside Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations, once a proud institution, globally respected, now “led” by an irredeemable fool.
Former Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, a great friend of Fernandez, fears that “hidden forces will sabotage him.” Amorim suggests a serious dialogue with the Armed Forces, and an emphasis on developing a “healthy nationalism.” Compare it to Brazil, which has regressed to the status of semi-disguised military dictatorship, with the ominous possibility of a tropical Patriot Act being approved in Congress to essentially allow the “nationalist” military to criminalize any dissidence.
Hit the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Beyond Argentina, South America is fighting neoliberal barbarism in its crucial axis, Chile, while destroying the possibility of an irreversible neoliberal take over in Ecuador. Chile was the model adopted by Macri, and also by Bolsonaro’s Finance Minister Paulo Guedes, a Chicago boy and Pinochetist fan. In a glaring instance of historical regression, the destruction of Brazil is being operated by a model now denounced in Chile as a dismal failure.
No surprises, considering that Brazil is Inequality Central. Irish economist Marc Morgan, a disciple of Thomas Piketty, in a 2018 research paper showed that the Brazilian 1 percent controls no less than 28 percent of national wealth, compared to 20 percent in the U.S. and 11 percent in France.
Which bring us, inevitably, to the immediate future of Lula – still hanging, and hostage to a supremely flawed Supreme Court. Even conservative businessmen admit that the only possible cure for Brazil’s political recovery – not to mention rebuilding an economic model centered on wealth distribution – is represented by “Free Lula.”
When that happens we will finally have Brazil-Argentina leading a key Global South vector towards a post-neoliberal, multipolar world.
Across the West, usual suspects have been trying to impose the narrative that protests from Barcelona to Santiago have been inspired by Hong Kong. That’s nonsense. Hong Kong is a complex, very specific situation, which I have analyzed, for instance, here, mixing anger against political non-representation with a ghostly image of China.
Each of the outbursts – Catalonia, Lebanon, Iraq, the Gilets Jaunes/Yellow Vests for nearly a year now – are due to very specific reasons. Lebanese and Iraqis are not specifically targeting neoliberalism, but they do target a crucial subplot: political corruption.
Protests are back in Iraq including Shi’ite-majority areas. Iraq’s 2005 constitution is similar to Lebanon’s, passed in 1943: power is distributed according to religion, not politics. This is a French colonizer thing – to keep Lebanon always dependent, and replicated by the Exceptionalists in Iraq. Indirectly, the protests are also against this dependency.
The Yellow Vests are targeting essentially President Emmanuel Macron’s drive to implement neoliberalism in France – thus the movement’s demonization by hegemonic media. But it’s in South America that protests go straight to the point: it’s the economy, stupid. We are being strangled and we’re not gonna take it anymore. A great lesson can be had by paying attention to Bolivian Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera.
As much as Slavoj Zizek and Chantal Mouffe may dream of Left Populism, there are no signs of progressive anger organizing itself across Europe, apart from the Yellow Vests. Portugal may be a very interesting case to watch – but not necessarily progressive.
To digress about “populism” is nonsensical. What’s happening is the Age of Anger exploding in serial geysers that simply cannot be contained by the same, old, tired, corrupt forms of political representation allowed by that fiction, Western liberal democracy.
Zizek spoke of a difficult “Leninist” task ahead – of how to organize all these eruptions into a “large-scale coordinated movement.” It’s not gonna happen anytime soon. But, eventually, it will. As it stands, pay attention to Linera, pay attention to Kiciloff, let a collection of insidious, rhizomatic, underground strategies intertwine. Long live the post-neoliberal Ho Chi Minh trail.
Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is “2030.” Follow him on Facebook.
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It is arguable that “Hong Kong is a complex, very specific situation” compared with other flashpoints discussed by Pepe Escobar. It is dangerous when interests other than justice are at play. In a world becoming increasingly chaotic, there is a dark underlying logic propelling us towards world war.
Excellent as usual, Mr. Escobar. The info that Baghdadi’s death had bern announced 5 times before is very appropriate.
I agree that Macri was a disaster, but Pepe Escobar doesn’t do him justice by describing him merely as “a marketing product, former millionaire playboy, president of football legends Boca Juniors, fanatic of New Age superstitions, and CEO obsessed with spending cuts”.
That is misleading, since for years he was mayor of Buenos Aires and seems to have done a decent job.
Condoleeza Rice devotes her longest chapter to the Middle East, where she defends past controversial positions and take the long view. She blames the Pentagon for committing too few troops to secure Iraq after the 2003 invasion and slams envoy Paul Bremer for disbanding the Iraqi army, among other screw-ups of imperial life.
“We are experiencing the birth pangs of a new Middle East,” she said — that she now thinks was correct. “The tumultuous events of the last decade have indeed torn apart the map of the area and cast aside the pillars of the old order,” she writes. “A new Middle East is emerging through war, unrest, revolution — and in a few cases, reform.”
The “new middle east” is the unadulterated continued European Imperialism in HighTech / Globalized Vision.
It (European Imperialism) was internationally reestablished in 1990/91 when George HW Bush proclaimed “What we see now is a (the) New World Order”.
What followed soon after was the 1991 Kuwait War, which was a ‘made for Television’ / Illegal indictment of Saddam Hussein, accused (by the United States and HGW Bush) of stealing Kuwaiti oil and of “killing babies” and other made-for-tv- atrocities. …
The Kuwait “war” and the devastating War Atrocities and Sanctions inflicted upon the nation and people of Iraq were incredibly devolutionary to the honorable, well educated, peaceful, tranquil people of Iraq. US – UN imposed sanctions led to the deaths of up to 500,000 thousand children. These imposed sanctions, along with International Trade Barriers, drove the prosperous people of Iraq into a previously unknown destitution and poverty that opened wide the doors to unrest and expanding incivility, dividing the nation that heretofore shared a civility, commonality of purpose, and peaceful co-existance.
Enter the old EUROPEAN / USA purpose of Divide & Rule to rise up civil unrest and internecine hostilities to further fracture and disunite / disembowel a people and prosperous nation (OIL RICH), — who’d known nothing but prosperity and peace for decades… ?
Imperialist and Imperialism is and has been the World-Wide “Rule of Law” under European dictate since Magellan circumnavigated the world back in the 14/1500’s. They’ve been the Worlds’ DOMINANT CULTURE for these hundreds of centuries for one specific reason; THEIR EASY WILLINGNESS TO KILL,MURDER,PLUNDER,OVERTHROW and TAKE, STEAL CORRUPT AND/OR DISEMBODY ANY CULTURE, PLACE OR THING IN ORDER TO FULFILL THE GREEDY PASSION FOR CONQUEST / EXPLOITATION, SUBJUGATION AND SUPERIORITY.
THE MOST CLEARLY EXPLICIT VISUALIZATION OF THE ABOVE
IS THE CURRENT POTUS OF THE UNITER STATES OF AMERICA
whosoever cannot see it is willingly blind / your just rewards await. …
Either support in any small way possible the Yellow Vests (from afar if need be), the teachers’ strikes and the other burgeoning populist movements across the globe or stay a slave to debt, precarious employment, low wages, and lack of adequate healthcare coverage.
It’s a simple choice. Neoliberalism is facing its harshest foe yet (us!) and it’s concerned.
Bravo como siempre Pepe.
In my Notes, I reserve, amongst a very few other Folders,
yours and The Sakers’, which I have for Reference in World News.
Many Thanks for your excellent reports Pepe.
BTW I also enjoy reading your “2030” and loaned it to many friends.
During the presidency of Nestor Kirchner – who died from a sudden heart attack, he is to have said while talking about the IMF…”why is it, that every time we (Argentina) have our heads above water, you push us down again”. Any agency, even remotely associated with the US, needs watching every single day.
Hasta la victoria, siempre!!! Adelante.
Neoliberalism is a pseudodogma that must be purged and destroyed along with its primary promoter and entity of its birth, the Outlaw US Empire. Political-economist DR. Michael Hudson has written numerous works exposing Neoliberalism for what it is, how it was gestated and the Orwellian methods used to make it orthodox and ordinary when the opposite’s the case. His most recent paper deals with conditions within the Outlaw US Empire and can be found: michael-hudson.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Hudson_FMM-Berlin-Conference-October2019__24september.pdf.
Hudson doesn’t hold back in describing what occurred in Chile and has often explained the forced implementation of Neoliberalism there. michael-hudson.com/2003/10/chiles-failed-economic-laboratory. This is from his website archive and tells that sordid tale.
As much as they can, I think countries should strive for economic independence, including protectionism when it seems appropriate. The over-emphasis on trade weakens independence. There are a few nations that need not rely on trade, but for most countries it is necessary (or essential) to have a high standard of living. Currently the international trading system is controlled by one country, the US, through the role of the US dollar. If you are happy to be a part of the empire that is not a big problem. But if you are not happy (say, if your role in the empire is a cheap source of some commodity), then you are in serious trouble. Reducing or eliminating the US dollar in international trade and finance, is going to be very difficult. Obviously the two countries strong enough to resist the empire, Russia and China, are trying to accomplish that, but it is going to be a slow process. It could also simply lead to a new Russo/Sino empire. One could hope it would be more fair, but hard to know.
You rightly state that over-emphasis on trade weakens independence. By the same token, over-emphasis on migration weakens independence.
The globalist agenda consists in driving international flows of merchandise, money and people.
Each of them weakens national sovereignty in different ways and with different time lags. That is no coincidence, because driving international flows of merchandise, money and people is the tool that the neoliberal parasitical financial oligarchy uses to homogenize the world and subject it to its will.
Alberto Fernandez should indeed watch his back because you just know the US has a big bullseye painted on it.
The problem whenever this type of progressive change takes place. is that first. the country is already mired in foreign debt and aftermath of the neoliberal policies of his predecessor. Second, the country instantly becomes a pariah with the US leading the way to economically strangle them into submission if not fomenting an outright coop. In other words Fernandez starts behind a very large and implacable eight ball from the very get go.
People on the right always accuse Socialism and Communism of being failed systems…and always point out that they always fail. But they never mention the reason why…which of course is for the very reasons I listed above. They are crushed before they can do any good because the corporate elite do not want any examples pointing to a system that might actually be better for the people, then their own corrupted Oligarchy.
I wish Fernandez the best…but the odds are against him.
An excellent read is Pankaj Mishra’s The age of Anger. While many worry about an impending WWIII, Pankaj Mishra points out that another global war is already raging – the “global civil war”. Then Brexit (UK), Trump (USA), Le Pen (France), AfD (Germany), gilets jaunes (France), etc. are nothing but the individual waves of the same tsunami, that of the “global civil war”.
In Age of Anger: A History of the Present, Pankaj Mishra turns our gaze towards the European past to understand the present turmoil. Specifically, he goes back to two defining revolutions in human history, the French, and the industrial – both rooted in Europe. They had set into motion a commercial society, and as a consequence, two competing philosophies – that of Voltaire (the intellectual globalist), and Rousseau (the diagnostician of the wounds inflicted on human souls by a commercial society). According to Mishra, the current global social and political unrest is the result of unresolved conflicts between these two opposing philosophies of regulating human societies. Today, too many are aware of the rising inequality and the lack of political redress. Too many people see the discrepancy between promises of individual freedom vs. real freedom.
To understand all these, one has to leave behind the current left/right way of viewing things. Those who make up the waves of the tsunami do not feel represented either by the traditional left or right (notwithstanding the expected exploitation of the sentiments by racist demagogues). This is not what you’ll hear from the mainstream, but that’s what sets Pankaj Mishra apart. According to him, the impending clash that matters is not that of civilizations, but between the few who have and the many who are left behind.
I like to think these refreshing happenings will spread across the world and renew our respect for our Constitution and good laws. May it apply to justice for all and not the way it has worked against the oppressed now for too many years. The people of Palestine are so trodden on, to use one example, that they don’t even rise up to the level of Iraq in strength and in health in order to take control of their country. Likewise Yemen can’t even catch their wind as the incendiaries keep falling down on them. This suffering is so, so unnecessary. Great informative column, Pepe, as usual.
Wow! Thanks for the great news Pepe! Wonderful to hear Argentina has a new socialist government
and Lula is likely to be freed. Hope they can somehow withstand possible attacks from the west’s clobbering
neo-liberal undemocratic development machine, that is failing badly anyway in America, France, UK, etc.
Will give a burst of inspiration to Chile’s people who have been suffering immensely from the grossly
inequitable society that’s been developed there. – Kay, New Zealand
With all due respect, Pepe, it is impossible, and always has been, to talk about “political anger” and “revolution” without mentioning Haiti, now in its sixth week of mass protests, with more than 30 dead. This is the XXI century’s heart of darkness of the imperial policies.
Bernard, your comment is 100% true. When looking at the criminal actors in Haiti do not forget to remember Canada, with the USA Leader, as the main culprits!
Hmm, I thought WJC & Dubya straightened out that crisis years ago, with Barack’s blessing. Sec. Hillary had insured prosperity, by prohibiting a minimum wage hike so Hanes Underwear could supply all those good jobs..
Its sadly telling how Clinton threw Aristide under the bus in 2000.
Obama’s recognition of the Honduran Coup and the judicial coups in Brazil and Argentina… signing off on on NED regime change plans for Nicaragua & Venezuela..
(Bolivia?).. How depressing can it get?