The New year is a time of balance, but in Argentina balancing is even more important since 2013 also marked the fulfillment of a decade of Frente para la Victoria’s (FPV) or “Front for Victory” party rule. President Néstor Carlos Kirchner, who was elected in 2003, provided the catalyst that allowed many structural changes to occur, following many years of the Peronist Party rule. During the 1990’s, the privatization carried out by former President Carlos Saúl Menem caused not just a divestment that wiped out the state infrastructure but also generated historical rates of unemployment and poverty.
In 1999, an election year, the rate of unemployment exceeded 25% and was still rising. The new president, Fernando de la Rúa, was unable to control the economic conditions (which included a fictitious parity of the national currency to the dollar) and he continued to follow the mandates of the International Monetary Fund which demanded economic adjustments in order to receive long-term credit. These credits were used to pay increasing external debt.
On December 19, 2001 with a large percentage of the population below the poverty level and a president tainted by political scandals, (which included the approval of a law which ended rights for workers) the Argentine people took to the streets and threw out their national leaders. This led to a two-year crisis that left the country on the verge of collapse.
Kirchner’s election brought change to the political realities in Argentina. He launched an action plan that provided more state control over the economy in addition to focusing on social issues. As a result, Argentina began to stabilize. In addition to increasing the minimum wage and pensions, the Universal Child Allowance (AUH) was enacted which was a payment to each Argentinian by the state. Another milestone of the Kirchner tenure was the reopening of proceedings against the last military dictatorship (1976-1982), which provided reconciliation. The reopening of judicial proceedings along with the protection of individual rights including the legalization of same sex marriage established a trend for the continent.
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Argentinians rewarded the Frente para la Victoria in the elections of 2007 and 2011 and have attracted militant youth to return to politics. These victories have also deepened the split within the Peronist. Since Kirchner’s death he has become an icon for the youth movement. However, Néstor Kirchner’s widow, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, is facing issues during her term, although some of her problems may relate to the fact that she previously served as president and her resumption of the presidency has deepened the discontent that Argentinians feel towards their government. This was reflected in the massive protest marches that took place in the capital in 2013.
However, the Kirchner government has reached a point of contradicting its own mandate. The most glaring contradiction was the choice of General César Milani to be appointed the Chief of Staff General of the Army. Human rights groups have accused the general of committing abuses in the 1990s.
Another problem is Argentina’s economic downtown within the past two years, generating growing inflation and affecting the increase in first-class goods, which undermines the purchasing power of Argentinian workers. This has led to stagnation in the labor market and has resulted in the creation of few new jobs. There are also recent allegations of corruption by senior government officials, including the vice president, Amado Boudou, who is under investigation for influence peddling.
Many Argentinians are grateful to the Kirchner’s for the social changes they promoted and implemented over the past ten years and many have benefitted from political projects carried out by the government. Now it is our duty as citizens to flag the errors and contradictions and not blindly support any measure. We must note the good and condemn what should be condemned.