The expropriation of agro giant Vicentin provides a solid indication of the type of country the Vice President is trying to build in Argentina.
The expropriation of Vicentin - an agricultural company that Argentine President Alberto FernÃ¡ndez has just expropriated due to a debt of 1.35 billion dollars - is the first structural decision of the current administration. Interestingly, it gives a glimpse of what kind of country Argentine Vice President Cristina Kirchner has in mind. And as it usually happens with the Vice President: what can be seen is an ironclad coherence with her convictions. Vicentin resumes the course of action that began with the State into the oil company YPF when Kirchner was president.
The Kirchnerist movement discusses and debates with intensity almost everything except what is important. To understand its country model and the role it assigns to the State and the Market in that design, its vision of the limits of private property and civil liberties, one must see what it does, because it will be impossible to come across validated literature that details the intended course.
This should not be a surprise. Cristina thus pays tribute to the most classic Peronism, a movement that took shape in the pragmatic exercise of power. But this flexibility does not prevent some persistent ideas from being found. Except during President Menem's neoliberal experiment (1989-1999), the presence of a State with some degree of direct intervention in the strategic sectors of the economy is part of the Peronist DNA. From the state concentration of the grain trade by the Argentine Institute for the Promotion of Exchange (IAPI) to date, it has in any case followed a path of moderation, which does not prevent it from re-emerging with conviction at times when the powers-that-be consider it critical. To put it simply: when Peronism senses a vital risk or opportunity, the solution usually appears in the form of strong State intervention, moving on to the private sphere.
Some, perhaps with some degree of naivety, may argue that we are now dealing with an impoverished government, with no resources to deploy expansive power. But this fact of reality, seen from the point of view of a State that dreams itself strong, is in any case a sign of urgency to accelerate the reconstruction. The fact that the government has no money is secondary. In any case, it has a monopoly on force and infinite administrative resources to get what it needs. Vicentin's intervention is a good example. A company that had already been intervened by the courts and was in bankruptcy proceedings was now intervened by the federal government. In other words, it was a normal process for a traumatized company. But a political-strategic decision was imposed on the court schedule and perhaps one day the Supreme Court will speak on the matter. In the meantime, the company is already in the hands of the powers that be.
Cristina Kirchner's affinity for China and Putin's Russia is no secret. Countries that went from poverty and economic and geopolitical weakness to stronger positions, combining State expansion in strategic areas of the economy with limited - and controlled - spaces for private activity. Putin is the clearest example of a president who receives a dismantled state on the verge of impotence and, by dint of expropriations and other economic disciplinary measures, built today's Russia.
The B-side of these experiences often has a common denominator: the trampling on civil liberties. But the comparison in this case is not used to stigmatize nor to look for mechanical similarities, but to explore possible features that in any case are going to be reinvented in a different environment, which influences and limits. That is why it is futile to compare with Venezuela. Argentina does not need to be Venezuela. It is sufficient for it to be Argentina. Expropriations, high inflation and debt crises are already an essential part of our nature, as is private initiative, entrepreneurship and the idea of a capitalist country.
Under this complex umbrella, Cristina begins to resume the construction of the model that former President Macri (2015-2019) put on hold. And it seems no coincidence that this happens when she seems to be on the way out of her most urgent battle, the judicial one. A criminal process that is beginning to turn its direction. She is going from denounced to denouncer. From suspect to victim. In this sense, Vicentin's case is transparent: a failed businessman who bet everything on Macri's reelection, to leverage the Banco NaciÃ³n's directed loans and avoid the dismantling of his company. Like some judges who today fiercely investigate schemes in which they took part. Almost an exercise in self-criticism, not about their Republican convictions, but rather about their political acumen.
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