Another shock announcement from Argentina’s leader
Argentina’s economy is slowing dramatically after seven booming years, but people here still haven’t felt much pain. The government has announced stimulus measures to buffer against the global crisis, fudged some economic statistics and persuaded carmakers and steelmakers to hold on to employees part time rather than lay them off. The effect of the crisis here has been so delayed that it was becoming easy to believe Argentine might be immune.
But Argentine President Cristina Fernandez made it startingly clear on Friday that the impact is coming and it’s going to hurt. In a surprise announcement she said she was seeking to get election rules changed so mid-term elections — to renew half of the lower house and a third of the Senate — can be held in June instead of October. She said this was so politicians can quickly wrap up campaigns and all get together to concentrate on healing the economy.
Opposition leaders said she was desperate and scared her allies in Congress will lose if they face election in October, when the country is in the grip of economic trouble.
Her language in an announcement speech was stark. She said it would be almost suicidal for politicians to campaign while the world falls apart. “We can’t be in a marathon of elections from now to October during this world disaster.” she said.
She also said that things going on in the world, people losing houses and jobs and banks collapsing, are much worse than what people have seen in the media, a surprising comment from a leader who often chides local media for their negativity.
Shock announcements are a specialty of Fernandez and her husband and predecessor ex-President Nestor Kirchner. But they have had mixed results. She had to back down last year on her surprise move to hike export taxes on the country’s top crop, soy, after farmers protested long and loud. But her shock nationalization of the private pension fund system breezed through Congress in November.
PHOTO CREDIT: Argentine President Cristina Fernandez in a file photo from January 2009 REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian