Some people are wondering whether the result of Sunday’s runoff election in Argentina may pose a threat to Venezuela. Well, a substantial political change in Argentina will drastically redefine the regional balance of power away from the Venezuelan government. So yes, it is a real threat. [Unlike Obama’s Executive Order.]
To understand WHY, it’s important to answer four questions:
1. Is this the end of “Kirchnerismo”? Not quite, although it may be slowly —but surely— fading away. After 12 years, we may say that Kirchnerismo, as a political project, is very much diminished. Its demise is not only the result of corruption or political mismanagement; it is also about their failed attempts to perpetuate themselves in power, and the crisis that ensued after the unexpected death of Nestor Kirchner. Kirchnerismo stinks, literally. This is why Daniel Scioli, being part of the kirchnerista government, has tried to distance himself from his predecessors, trying hard not to be
considered a continuation of the current government, even while maintaining many of their old policies. As for the future of Kirchnerismo, we can expect it to become a part of the new opposition, and we can expect that they will try to sabotage Macri’s government and TRY to maintain as many positions of power as possible. They will likely continue to exist in Congress, for example.
2. Is this the end of “Peronismo”? HA! Definitely not. Peronismo is a sacred dogma of Argentinean politics. Almost all politicians still invoke “Peron’s legacy” in their proposals. Unfortunately, this will be the most important challenge for Mauricio Macri if he is elected President. Macri has demonstrated that it’s possible to do politics in Argentina without being Peronista, but all his main opponents will likely try to fill the vacuum of Peronista leadership the Kirchners will have left behind. One of those who will take advantage of this situation is Sergio Massa, who has strategically supported Macri, because he knows that he will have the opportunity to be the new peronista opposition leader, displacing Kirchnerismo and refreshing the image of Peronismo.
3. Is populism dying out in Latin America? By looking at what’s happening in Brazil, and the real possibility of change in Argentina, it’s clear that the region faces a political sea-change. It’s likely that the failure of 21st century socialism has made people weary of ideologies; they just want a better quality of life (something these political systems have not achieved, despite exacerbated populism). Unfortunately, Latin America- Argentina in particular – is subject to dreaded political cycles that tend to bring back crap.
4. Is this context a real threat to Chavismo? Oh, yeah. If Mauricio Macri wins the election, we will see the first great blow to Chavismo as a regional project. Macri has said that, once he wins the presidency, he will ask for the implementation of the Democratic Clause of Mercosur and the application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter of the OAS to the Venezuelan government for its repeated violation of human rights and undemocratic behavior. Not only would we finally see a government officially request such measures; but it would be coming from a former steadfast ally of Chavismo in the region.
In that sense, Macri could become a new regional leader, with values and principles completely opposed to those that have defined most of Latin America during the last decade and a half. We could indeed be witnessing the starting point of a series of changes in Latin America, where Venezuela could be the next in line, followed by Brazil.
No doubt this means bad news for the Venezuelan government, especially because they come at a time when many countries have chosen to distance themselves from Maduro’s administration. Probably, the stance of a new Argentinian government will encourage other governments to challenge Maduro and isolate his regime from the rest of the region. In a scenario of economic crisis, shortages, and dangerous alliances overseas; a turn of the tides in Latin America may pressure a change in Venezuela.
What about ALBA? What will be the effect of a favorable approach from Argentina to the Pacific Alliance? What will happen to the Mercosur economies? How will Venezuela respond to regional opposition without money? Maduro is in a tight spot.
We could indeed be witnessing the starting point of a series of changes in Latin America, where Venezuela could be the next in line, followed by Brazil.
But here’s the rub. Even if Daniel Scioli wins the election, the relationship between Argentina and Venezuela will never be the same. As President, he will have to listen to his neighbors and their demands and concerns about the situation in Venezuela. It will be very hard for him to differentiate his government from Kirchner’s administration if he does not sever ties with Caracas. He knows how his people compare the situation in Venezuela to the future of Argentina.
The truth is that Kirchnerismo and Chavismo are both doomed because of the deep crises they generated in their respective countries. Both Argentina and Venezuela, during the best years of the Kirchner/Chávez era, had incredible commodity booms (wheat and oil) which were squandered to maintain their populist policies. Today, they both face the consequences.
Venezuela is not prepared to lose one of its major allies; much less to face it as an opponent. A story that began in 1998 on the northernmost point of our continent, may receive its death blow, 17 years later, at the southernmost point. We may be witnessing the end of 21st century socialism.
Our countries are connected by much more than rivers and land. This is South America.