In the wake of the YPF/Repsol affair, the Argentine government seems more determined than ever to push ahead with its populist, opportunistic and – ultimately – dangerous path. La Razón, for instance, reported last week that tens of thousands of President Cristina Kirchner’s supporters flooded a stadium in Buenos Aires. There, Kirchner declared: “Jamás dejaré que escriban nuestra historia desde fuera.” (Roughly, “I will never allow our history to be written by foreigners.”) Of course, such rhetorical flourishing was only one element of the latest round of agitation over the Falklands issue.
On 17 April, according to The Telegraph, companies involved in prospecting oil reserves around the Falklands received legal notice warning against “their illicit actions and their consequences”. Similarly, the Argentinian Comisión Nacional de Valores (CNV) – the Argentine national self-sufficiency organisation – was taking these matters before the International Organisation of Securities Commissions. Though rather serious-sounding on first glance, neither the British Foreign Office nor any of the companies in question appear to be concerned by these threats.
…the organisation now engages in sabre-rattling…
Whether there actually is a legal case against the Falklands prospectors is, however, moot. That Buenos Aires has followed this course is interesting enough, highlighting as it does the nature of the political forces dominating Argentine policy-making.
This force, as if we needed reminding, is somewhat cavalier toward international law. Just as Repsol’s lawful right to property was ignored, the CNV is (or, had been?) party to a 2001 agreement with the Treasury and Financial Services Authority, ostensibly to “protect investors and contribute to the integrity of the stock markets”. Yet, the organisation now engages in sabre-rattling intended to achieve the exact opposite. The question that follows, then, is what exactly is the nature of this political force?
The dangerous aspect of Argentina’s direction…
Writing in El País, Miguel Ángel Bastenier discusses the growth of a “strongly populist and left-wing credo, completely attributable to the president.” Its name? Cristi-kichnerismo, after the incumbent leader whose lexicon, Bastenier drily observes, is already converging with that of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Indeed, he posits the supposition that this cristi-kirchnerismo “could end up being a new Chavism of the 21st century.” Therein lies the danger of Argentina’s current political path.
The populism and opportunism I spoke of ought already to be self-evident. Kirchner’s aforementioned appearance in the Buenos Aires stadium was a festival-like celebration of the Argentine state – a “celebration of nationality” as it was also called. Further, that YPF was expropriated soon after the Kirchner government failed in its goals at the 2012 Summit of the Americas smacks a tad too much of coincidence. The dangerous aspect of Argentina’s direction is perhaps somewhat more oblique.
…such are the prospects that Argentina can expect…
“Dangerous”, here, should not be taken to mean an imminent start of Round Two for the Falklands. Rather, more prosaically, we can see danger in the future of Argentina and its economy. By threatening lawful foreign businesses; by stealing major industrial enterprises from legitimate owners; by mimicking so unrepentant a thief as Hugo Chávez, President Kirchner is turning her country into an economic pariah. Readers who might themselves cherish the idea of a strong, interventionist state will doubtless scoff at this – but the case of Venezuela serves as clear warning.
That is, causality has hit: Venezuela’s socialist policies and massive expropriation of oil infrastructure are yielding rotten fruit. Inflation is over 30%, the economy contracting rapidly and even basic goods are being rationed – such are the prospects that Argentina can expect so long as cristi-kirchnerismo dictates policy. Argentina, with still-fresh memories of dictatorship and all its horrific baggage, deserves far, far better than this.