Sunday, August 27, 2017

Comparing two Argentine presidencies, Carlos Menem and Mauricio Macri's

Atilio Boron has a longish article on Argentine President Mauricio Macri's politics, which includes five points of comparison he makes between the government of Carlos Menem (1989-1999) and Macri's (2015-present)
El macrismo y sus límites Página/12 26.08.2017

Carlos Menem
(1) Menem came to power as the head of the Peronist Partido Justicialista (PJ), an established party with a previous history of being a left party, and Menem came to power campaigning in that vein. His embrace of neoliberal/Washington Consensus economic policies took years to generate significant opposition within the Peronist movement, while the main opposition party, the Radical Civic Union (UCR), was fine with that approach.

Macri came to power with a motley political coalition called Cambiemos, which doesn't provide him anything like the solid, well-established institutional support that Menem had with the PJ.

Mauricio Macri
(2) The major media are far more concentrated than during Menem's Presidency, and are very partisan in favor of Macri and his government. Boron sees this as a major compensating factor for the weaknesses of his coalition's structure. But he also notes that this makes him vulnerable to possible turns in the media's approach in a way that Menem was not.

(3) Menem acted within the outlines of a neoliberal consensus that was not only dominant at the time in Latin America but was also more widely regarded as desirable. Boron mentions in particular Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru. While neoliberalism is still a dominant pardigm, Boron notes that "ese paradigma de política económica hoy ha caído en desgracia con el ascenso de Donald Trump a la Casa Blanca y el neoliberalismo que permea todo el 'equipo' de Macri da la sensación de ser anacrónico en más de un sentido" (this paradigm of political economy has fallen into disgrace today with the ascension of Donald Trump and the neoliberalism that permeates Macri's whole "team" gives the feeling of being anachronistic in more that one sense).

(4) The flip side of Macri's weakness on party organization compared to Menem is that didn't face anything like the popular resistance that Macri has since the beginning of his Presidency to his economic and political policies. Menem's neoliberalism, which eventually resulted in the crisis of 2001 after Menem had left office, also benefitted from the fact that he took office at a time of serious economic problems including an actual hyperinflation and major economic setbacks to small businesses and large portions of the population. So people were willing to cut him more slack for a longer time. While Macri took over at a time when the economy was stagnating in some ways and significant inflation (but not hyperinflation).

(5) Menem became President in 1989 in the period where the Communist government in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were falling, which resulted in the much-discussed unipolar moment of US predominance in the world. This gave the US the clout to more effectively act as a political and economic protector of friendly Latin American governments. But as Boron observes:

Macri se enfrenta a un mundo mucho más complejo y amenazante que el de los noventas y en donde la redistribución del poder mundial y la emergencia de nuevos centros de poder (Rusia, China, India) y el debilitamiento de Europa hace que aún con el ferviente apoyo de Washington la viabilidad de sus políticas esté marcada por la incertidumbre.

[Macri encountered a world that is much more complex and threatening than that of the nineties and in which the distribution of global power and the emergence of new centers of power (Russia, China, India) and the debility of Europe makes the viability of his policies is marked by uncertainty despite the fervent support of Washington.]
Boron expresses considerable doubt that Macri will be able to define the Argentine right over a longer period because his economic policies as well as his broader ideological position are garbled. Boron also thinks that Macri is conveying a strong image of governing for the benefit of large corporations.

No comments: