Argentina’s elections spell victory for Venezuela

The story began in 1998 in Venezuela, the northernmost point of our sub-continent. Who knew that, 17 years later, the same story began to change on its southernmost point?

44

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.

Previous articleLa Simón: Facts, Problems and Half a Solution
Next articleThe left begins to pay

Political Scientist and professor (UCV) living in Venezuela -or what remains of it-. Vente Venezuela’s National Coordinator of Political Training and International Officer. Always trying to move forward while the “guagua” goes in reverse. I’m interested in politics, economics, political science and international relations. Carakistán is always a chronicle; our chronicle.

44 COMMENTS

  1. “Is populism dying out in Latin America?”
    Nope !
    Populism is a byproduct of Universal Suffrage not exclusive to Latin America.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if after Maduro, 20 years from now we get something as bad.
    Universal Suffrage worked really good for Egypt, Iraq, Russia and brought us Donald Trump ! 😉

    • According to Fukuyama populism clientelism and other similar isms of the same ilk are innate to democracy , just as cronyism is endemic to other earlier forms of government , its influence can be sometimes controlled so its doesnt do too much damage through the technocratization and institutionalization of the organization of government , but there is always, as Toro Volt insightfully points out, a tendency to reflourish where social or political conditions favour its reappearance.

      • Yeah! That’s the diffence, for example, between Venezuela and Argentina. Both have had populisms, but the institutional development and the level of destruction of these institutions make the difference.

  2. Good post. Two things: Macri’s victory might act as an incentive to undecided or distrustful voters in Venezuela: they could feel that, after all, the electoral way does work to oust regimes like Maduro’s (or his allies). Two, Can “Chavismo” become the Venezuelan counterpart to Argentinian “Peronismo”?

    • Don’t fucking doubt it for a second.

      In both cases, the unthinkable miracle of a smart political alternative could easily erase them as anything more than the spiritual equivalent of the English crown. That is, a politics that doesn’t think its answers will come from structures of ideals. Neat logics. “Free market works because…””Some socialism is necessary because….”

      The first real enemy is equality. For example: Why not keep mercals and all such programs in the barrios AND let the free market go nutz in the wealthy areas? While you doubt whether something like that could work without massive levels of distortions, consider the machinery of communes and the tru loyalty to the Chavista cause that exists in barrios, and remember that some corruption is as unavoidable as taxes… and as limitable.

    • I’m not sure about the first thing, because the electoral systems are totally differents and the context it’s different, too. Did you see “colectivos” in the Argentine elections, for example? That’s the difference. In Argentina there are some institutions that could not be destroyed. Of course, Macri’s victory is an incentive to people but I think it’s not enough in our country.

      About the second thing, totally yes!!! I think it will take some years but we must to be prepared for seeing a lot of “chavistas” groups in our political system. Right now you can see how some opposition leaders try to imitate Chávez and his legacy (They exculpate Chávez as if Maduro is the only responsible of our crisis.

  3. That’s a great analysis, Pedro. But let’s be fair here, the leftism we see in South America helped indeed a lot of people, it helped the criminals, it helped the boliburgueses/empresarios K, the union presidents and, very specially, the new caste of public servants aligned with the government making sure to destroy democracy from inside like the parasites they are and then perpetuate their party in power for ever. Nevertheless, if there’s one class that is not contemplated by these lunatics in the nomenklatura, that one would be the lower class, which in not helped in any way by these people. It’s only propaganda. It’s only lies. The lies are repeated ad nauseam by the coopted media, and at some point you even will caught yourself murmuring some of their lies when walking in the street, when taking a shower, when eating. It’s hard to fight it. They try to remove our sanity. And sometimes they achieve it.

    The poor might receive handouts from the government, but with the chronic high inflation such handouts are useless, the poor remain poor, and will remain poor, because the handouts doesn’t last more than one week; the poor might have free education and healthcare, but with such terrible public hospitals and schools, they don’t feel that great about their “rights”. And Argentina may be the first relevant country to be liberated from all this sea of illusion and lies.

    The Argentine people finally understood that these gangsters, despite the socialist rethoric and propaganda, with the façade of “Oh God, how we love helping the poor”, in fact, work 24/7 to make common people’s lives even more miserable every day, that in 99% of the times the decisions that the government makes go against people’s best interest. Regarding Venezuela, for example, I’ve just read an article at La Patilla which states that now 73% of the Venezuelan households are officially ‘poor’, and that 76% of the population are now officially ‘poor’. However, in 1998, only 45% of the households were poor. Thus, we can see that the Chavistas helped the poor by fostering even more poverty! Is that accurate or am I missing the bigger picture? I guess the Chavistas love the poor so much that they want to multiply poor people infinite times until they become 99% of the population just like in Cuba, the 1% left being the people aligned with the PSUV ? Oh! How lovely they are!

    Some people like to say that the ‘neo-liberal’ ’90s were very harsh times for the poor in Venezuela, and that now there is ‘social inclusion’. But, hell, what kind of social inclusion is that that nearly doubles the number of houselds in poverty? Maduro’s former marketeer nickname is ‘Goebbels’ for a reason, maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t believe everything he says.

    • Yes, I agree with you. I remember Margaret Thatcher when she said that “the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money”. They have been efficient multiplying the poor people confess it freely when they say “so that the poor continue governing”. In that sense, I think liberalism and freedom values/ideas have a chance to show a new face in our region, beyond the mafias and corruption. But also I think we have to ve careful using the term “social”, because in the name of it, they commit their abuses.

  4. A Macri win would be a hard blow to chavismo. One less ally. Though if Macri pushes his anti-Venezuelan government rhetoric, it might prove a rallying point for Maduro. I doubt it will be strong enough, though.

    • Yep. They lost one of their spoiled kids. I think they aren’t prepared for a change in the region. It’s not the same to lose Perú, for example, that lose a great ally like Argentina.

  5. How many millions of export would Argentina lose?
    How is Venezuela paying for Argentina’s meat nowadays?
    Would Venezuelan boligarchs threaten not to pay debts if the Argentina president criticizes the regime?

    As far as I could see, Argentina had a trade surplus with Venezuela since before Chávez came to power, as opposed to what has happened elsewhere: Venezuela had a slight surplus vis-a-vis Brazil, Colombia, etc when Chávez came to power and we now export nothing and import a lot from there. Venezuela has somehow been more dependent on Argentine food than on that of other countries around.

    Of course, now Venezuela is able to pay less and less.

    Let’s see. Money talks.

    • Yes, I agree. But, in that way, I believe Macri could make a real difference if he defends his values and ideas as he did it in his campaign. Of course,
      one thing is to be a candidate and another is to be President. Power has many traps and commitments. We’ll see if Macri can against that and what role money plays.

  6. Hopefully change will be for the best. Can’t help but wish this pan-south americanism were an actual program/platform and not just to celebrate the defeat of a misguided, stunted, yet ironically pan south-americanist program which Chavez once represented.

    • This is a great point. I think Argentina will give a turn from ALBA and other failed “integration” schemes to the Pacific Alliance, for example. It would be an amazing opportunity for its economic development.

  7. No official results yet, but the polls are closed and the press has already called it a win for Macri. People in the Scioli camp are already (unofficially) acknowledging the loss.

    • For the medium term, I would agree. But, for the short term, I would expect that Argentina’s economy will contract initially as they apply the needed structural corrections. Long term? Too early to tell, yet.

      • Given that one of his first measures will be to remove the agro export restrictions, I don’t see any reason to expect contraction in the short term. The party is just about to start, I believe investors in the EU and US are all very confident about Argentina, and money will flow there in record amounts.

        Well, unless Dilma and Maduro send the troops and start a war there, hehe.

          • That’s right, and I fear the sabotage that the leftists that will remain in the government might cause for the new leadership, and from the fascist criminal gangs like La Campora etc too. They probably won’t stay quiet when they notice that judges will try to bring Cristina and some others to justice. With Macri, the judicary will feel freer and safer to do their jobs. How will the mafia react is my only fear.

      • Yes, probably. All depends on what kind of corrections Macri will apply. It will be “shock” policies or “progressive” policies? Let’s see, but yes, I think investors are all very confident about Argentina and there are great expectations.

  8. A eight -point lead with half the votes counted. Warning- BA returns are most likely coming in first, which will tend Macri. The non-BA provinces are more Peronista, which leads me to suspect that the 8 point lead will be reduced- it was 9 points w 25 % counted. But still a win.

    Macri was president of Boca Juniors. Which reminds me that when I was first in Argentina, one of the fist questions directed at me was if I were a fan of Boca Juniors or River Plate [In Argie-speak, “sos hincha.”] Without any knowledge of either team, I replied Boca. Boca is traditionally the team of “the people,” but Macri is a wealthy man. Which reminds me of the Kennedys.

    Post-Evita III, Argentina will be very happy to continue exporting foodstuffs to Venezuela, but it will probably be less tolerant of any “I will be glad to pay you in a week’s time for a hamburger today” maneuver on Maduro’s part. And if there is any substantial money still owed to Argentina, any unfriendly political move on Macri’s part will result in immediate suspension of payment. Which indicates to me that Macri’s policies towards Venezuela may not be as different from those of Evita III as some oppo people have hoped.

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/22/americas/argentina-elections/

    • I remember a tweet from Macri in which he said that he will work hard to expel Venezuela from Mercosur because of the political prisoners. I hope he will do that.

    • Yes. One thing is to be opposition and another is to be government, with commitments, etc. Macri said he wants a cooperation with all countries, so, probably he will continue exporting products to Venezuela. The issue is if he will to accept unattractive conditions offered by our country.

  9. “Venezuela is not prepared to lose one of its major allies; much less to face it as an opponent.”

    Argentina under Kirchner was an ally of the chavista faction, not of Venezuela. Post-Kirchner Argentina will be an adversary of Maduro and his cronies, not Venezuela.

  10. I just watched the concession and victory speeches. I am thrilled for Argentina. They recognized the danger soon enough and turned away from the abyss. Mauricio Macri and Argentina have their work cut out for them, but there is no reason that they cannot restore the productivity and credibility of their country in a few short years.

    Venezuela? That is another story… But never mind that right now. Today was a good day… for Argentina, for South America, and for Venezuela.

    • Yes it is! Venezuela has other situations, more complex. I’m impressed with Scioli’s speech. His concession speech was better than his own campaign.

      But now it’s time to uncork the red wine… Cheers!

  11. From El Pais: En la noche electoral, Macri estuvo acompañado por Lilian Tintori, la esposa del preso político venezolano Leopoldo López. Esta presencia demuestra que Macri va muy en serio en su intención de pedir en la próxima cumbre de Mercosur, el 21 de diciembre, la suspensión de Venezuela como miembro de bloque por la presunta violación de la cláusula democrática que lo rige.

    • Fue uno de sus compromisos de campaña. Le vendría muy mal no cumplir su palabra, 11 días después de haber asumido. Los argentinos (y muchos en la región) creen en él. Veremos si cumple.

Leave a Reply