ARGENTINE UPDATE – Nov 26, 2015


1. ARGENTINA’S CHANCE FOR A FRESH START (The Washington Post)

2. ‘DIRTY WAR’ EDITORIAL SHOCKS ARGENTINES, INCLUDING PAPER’S OWN REPORTERS ; “THE DESIRE FOR REVENGE SHOULD BE BURIED ONCE AND FOR ALL,” THE EDITORIAL SAID. (Washington Post.com)

3. DOES ARGENTINA’S PRO-BUSINESS VOTE MEAN THE LATIN AMERICAN LEFT IS DEAD? (Washington Post.com)

4. DEVALUATION KEY IN LURING INVESTORS BACK TO ARGENTINA (The Wall Street Journal)

5. ARGENTINA TAKES A TURN FOR THE BETTER (Miami Herald)

6. ARGENTINA OUTLOOK LIFTED TO POSITIVE AT MOODY’S (Financial Times)

7. FALKLAND OIL EXPLORERS PLAN MERGER IN EFFORT TO START PRODUCTION (Financial Times)

8. MACRI’S WIN IN ARGENTINA GIVES REFORM A SECOND CHANCE (Chicago Tribune)

9. MACRI REITERATES THAT CURRENCY CONTROLS ARE ON THEIR WAY OUT (Chicago Tribune)

10. ARGENTINA’S MACRI TAPS BAN KI-MOON AIDE AS FOREIGN MINISTER (Bloomberg News)

11. ARGENTINA’S CREDIT OUTLOOK RAISED BY MOODY’S AFTER MACRI WIN (Bloomberg News)

12. ARGENTINA’S NEW PRESIDENT WON’T BE VENEZUELA’S FRIEND (Bloomberg News)

13. ARGENTINE PRESIDENT-ELECT WANTS ‘TOUGH’ DEBT DEFAULT TALKS (Reuters News)

14. ARGENTINE PRESIDENT-ELECT PICKS U.N. INSIDER AS HIS TOP DIPLOMAT (Reuters News)

15. ARGENTINES BRACE FOR OVERHAULS UNDER MACRI (Dow Jones Institutional News)

16. ARGENTINA OUTLOOK IMPROVED AFTER ELECTION, BUT DEBT LOOMS, MOODY’S SAYS (Barrons)

17. CAN A CENTRIST SAVE ARGENTINA? (The Daily Beast)

18. VICTORY FOR MACRI AUGURS A DECISIVE SHIFT ARGENTINA (Forbes)

19. WHY MACRI’S WIN IS BAD NEWS FOR ARGENTINA (Fortune)

20. ARGENTINA’S NEXT LEADER TO END AID FOR VENEZUELA (Orlando Sentinel)

21. CHANGE IN ARGENTINA, BUT IT WON’T BE EASY (American Thinker)

22. A CHANGE OF LEADERSHIP IN ARGENTINA (The New American )

23. ARGENTINA’S NEXT PRESIDENT, MAURICIO MACRI, FACES BIG CHALLENGES IN FIXING ECONOMY (Fox News)

24. ARGENTINA’S PRESIDENT-ELECT PLEDGES SWIFT SECURITY MEASURES (Insight Crime.org)

25. ARGENTINA, NOW TO BE RUN BY ITS PROPRIETORS (Open Democracy)

1. ARGENTINA’S CHANCE FOR A FRESH START (The Washington Post)
By Editorial Board
November 24, 2015

FOR MOST of the past 75 years, Argentina, once upon a time a wealthy nation, has isolated and impoverished itself with a mix of economic populism and jingoistic nationalism. The past dozen years of rule by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband, Néstor Kirchner, were no exception: Like numerous previous regimes, theirs produced a boom-and-bust economic cycle and poor relations with democratic states. Now, however, a surprising presidential election has given the country a chance to rejoin the Western world — and dealt a blow to Latin America’s already flagging socialist camp.

The winner of the election, Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, is a rightward-leaning former businessman who defeated the nominee of the Kirchners’ Peronist movement. Mr. Macri offered voters a simple but, in the Argentine context, radical agenda: to return the country to mainstream economic policies and end the autocratic attacks on the media, judiciary and other institutions. In the short term, Mr. Macri promises to remove capital and export controls that have drained the country’s hard currency reserves while creating a thriving black market. He could also seek a deal with international creditors that would end Argentina’s 15-year-long exclusion from global capital markets.

The economic restructuring will likely be an uphill battle, obstructed by Peronist control of the National Congress and unions, and Mr. Macri has indicated he will proceed cautiously, holding off on privatizations and cuts in social benefits. He is no doubt mindful that all three of the previous non-Peronist civilian presidents elected since 1955 were driven from office before completing their terms.

However, Mr. Macri could quickly have an impact in foreign policy, where he appears ready to rupture the Kirchners’ cozy relations with China, Iran and — especially — the Chavista government of Venezuela. In his first news conference, Mr. Macri said he would seek Venezuela’s expulsion from the Mercosur regional trading group because of its violations of democratic norms. He could also seek sanctions under the democracy charter of the Organization of American States. Lilian Tintori, the wife of imprisoned Venezuela opposition leader Leopoldo López, was at Mr. Macri’s side on election night.

The Argentine’s willingness to take a stand is particularly important because of Venezuela’s upcoming legislative elections on Dec. 6. At best, the threat of multilateral sanctions could help to deter the government of Nicolás Maduro from trying to impede what polls show will be a decisive opposition victory.

Even a successful election will leave Venezuela — ground zero for the self-defeating autocratic populism that infected Latin America in the 2000s — a long way from reconstituting its institutions or rescuing its collapsing economy. But under Mr. Macri, Argentina could forge a path that new leaders in Caracas, and eventually other countries, could follow. The formula is not complicated: It amounts to embracing the free-market, trade-promoting policies that are working for Chile, Mexico, Colombia and other Latin American democracies. The problem has not been technocratic, but political — the susceptibility of some Latin electorates to cheap populist appeals. The fact that Argentines, who have fallen for those nostrums more often than virtually any other nation, finally have chosen a different course can only be encouraging.

2. ‘DIRTY WAR’ EDITORIAL SHOCKS ARGENTINES, INCLUDING PAPER’S OWN REPORTERS ; “THE DESIRE FOR REVENGE SHOULD BE BURIED ONCE AND FOR ALL,” THE EDITORIAL SAID. (Washington Post.com)
By Joshua Partlow
24 November 2015

BUENOS AIRES — The first news cycle after the election of Mauricio Macri as president of Argentina included an unusual contribution from La Nacion, one of the country’s top newspapers: an editorial headlined “No More Vengeance.”

The gist of the instantly controversial piece was that the time had come to forget about the crimes committed during Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship. The editorial argued that the old regime’s leftist opponents were “ideologically committed to terrorist groups” and acted in a way “no different” from the militants who attacked Paris earlier this month. It also bemoaned the “shameful” treatment of regime officials imprisoned for human rights crimes despite their “old age.”

“One day after citizens voted for a new government, the desire for revenge should be buried once and for all,” the editorial read.

The piece provoked swift condemnation by many Argentines, including many of the newspaper’s own reporters. They took to social media to disavow the unsigned opinion piece, and the newspaper published a photo of dozens in the newsroom holding up signs that said, “I condemn the editorial.”

“La Nacion’s editorials exclusively represent the editorial position of the newspaper and not the position of its journalists or employees in other parts of the company,” read an article published in response.

The editorial waded into especially sensitive territory — the legacy of the “Dirty War,” in which tens of thousands of people were killed or made to “disappear” by government forces, and ongoing human rights trials against the perpetrators.

Part of the concern was the timing, as it prompted fears that the newly elected Macri government might be more open to forgiving these crimes than voters had been led to believe. As Jonathan Watts and Uki Goñi wrote in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, “Many middle- and upper-class Macri supporters want the trials to end. They prefer to speak of ‘reconciliation’, a catchword for amnesty, now that hundreds of former officers have been convicted — many of so advanced an age that about 300 are estimated to have died so far in jail, either serving their sentences or pending trial.”

Macri said in his first news conference as president-elect that the trials should continue and that the judicial system should operate with independence, although he didn’t address the editorial directly.

Read more:

In Argentina, distrust over move to abolish intelligence agency

Orphaned in Argentina’s dirty war, man is torn between two families

3. DOES ARGENTINA’S PRO-BUSINESS VOTE MEAN THE LATIN AMERICAN LEFT IS DEAD? (Washington Post.com)
By Joshua Partlow;Irene Caselli
24 November 2015

BUENOS AIRES — The stereotypical Latin American leader of the past generation has been a firebrand populist who could deliver hours-long impromptu speeches on television, painted the United States as the source of all evil and had probably fought as a guerrilla in some steamy jungle.

That type of leader — think Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez or Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (minus the guerrilla experience) — is the opposite of Mauricio Macri, the understated engineer and Buenos Aires mayor who was elected president of Argentina on Sunday.

Macri’s win comes as further evidence that the often-cited “pink tide” of the Latin American left has started to ebb. Across the region, countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela that had joined forces to oppose the United States and “neoliberal” capitalism have seen their influence diminish as they battle economic challenges. The severe slump driven by low oil and commodity prices in the region’s leader and biggest economy, Brazil, has pushed ratings for President Dilma Rousseff, a former guerrilla, into the single digits amid calls for her impeachment.

Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, a socialist ex-Sandinista guerrilla leader, is pro-business and beloved by Washington. Cuba is forging a rapprochement with the United States. A comedian with no political experience was just elected in Guatemala. Former Uruguayan president José Mujica, an ex-guerrilla famed for his ascetic lifestyle and liberal policies such as legalizing marijuana, was replaced by Tabaré Vázquez, a doctor. While support remains strong across the region for generous spending on social programs, the tone of the discourse has softened.

“You’re seeing this wave or tide or whatever you want to call it has run its course. They don’t have the economic sustenance to continue,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think tank. “This kind of fiery leftist rhetoric was a function of the economic situation, and that has changed dramatically for many of these countries.”

In Macri’s first step as president-elect, a low-key Monday morning news conference at a table flanked by his aides, he said he would seek to suspend Venezuela from the South American trade bloc Mercosur, citing human rights violations and limits on free speech. That represents a sharp break with Fernández, the outgoing president, who has had close relations with Venezuela.

“To the brothers of Latin America and the whole world, we want to have a good relationship with all the countries,” Macri said in his victory speech. “The Argentine people have much to offer to the world.”

Macri comes across as a calm, fact-favoring engineer more interested in quietly tinkering with economic levers than addressing the masses in soaring palace-balcony speeches. His aides describe him as a shy, somewhat socially awkward man who took a while to adapt to the crowds on the campaign trail. Macri was no student militant in the Latin American mode; he has said he doesn’t even regularly read newspapers.

His appeal stems in part from his lack of a strong ideology — a sharp contrast to Fernández’s fierce nationalism. Macri, a scion of one of the country’s richest families, headed the soccer team Boca Juniors and is serving his second term as mayor of Buenos Aires, where he is known for sprucing up the capital, bringing in art and music performances, and adding bus lanes.

“He’s the anti-Cristina,” said Diego Guelar, a foreign policy adviser to Macri. “He’s a doer. That would be exactly his ideology.”

Roberto Digon, who served alongside Macri at Boca Juniors before the two fell out over sales of players, said that Macri initially had trouble giving a speech or getting his ideas across but that he improved over time, in part because he wanted “to show his father that he was an important and capable person.”

“He must have undertaken some public speaking and presentation courses, because he was very weak politically and ideologically,” Digon said. “Macri was brilliant when it came to business. He was very capable. He learned about politics little by little.”

Guelar, a former Argentine ambassador to the United States and a potential candidate for foreign minister, said Macri’s first foreign policy priority would be building closer ties with Brazil, a neighbor and trading partner that Macri on Monday called “our most important partner of the future.” The incoming president’s team also wants to pursue a free-trade deal with the European Union. Another goal is to clarify some aspects of the relationship with China, including making public the terms of a Chinese-funded space observatory — to ensure that it won’t have any military use — and reviewing a plan for a Chinese-built nuclear reactor.

As far as the United States is concerned, Macri seeks to settle a creditor dispute over debts from the financial crisis and cultivate a warmer overall relationship including encouraging foreign investment. During Fernández’s tenure, there were some bizarre episodes, such as in 2011 when Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman used a pair of nail clippers to open a case in the airport allegedly containing secret U.S. military codes.

Guelar said there would likely be the “normal conflicts of a normal agenda that you share with a partner and a friend,” such as trade disputes over whether Argentine oranges or meat would be allowed into the United States.

“What’s going to change is the American Embassy is not going to be the embassy of an enemy,” he said.

Macri’s chief strategist and campaign manager, Marcos Peña, added in an interview that “there are no reasons for us to have bad relations with the United States.”

“There can be a mature relationship of friendship, with a joint agenda to exchange and grow together,” he said. “The world is an opportunity, not a threat.”

4. DEVALUATION KEY IN LURING INVESTORS BACK TO ARGENTINA (The Wall Street Journal)
By Christopher Whittall
Nov 24, 2015

Removing currency controls is one of several reforms President-elect Macri has vowed to lure investors

For Richard House, it was the black market currency booths he saw on a recent visit to Buenos Aires that dissuaded him from investing in Argentina.

Mr. House, head of emerging-markets debt at Standard Life Investments, had to pay for local hotels and restaurants at the official exchange rate of a little over 9 pesos to the dollar—far more expensive than the black market rate of around 16 pesos he found on the street.

The experience brought home the radical changes, including to the currency, needed to resuscitate Argentina’s flailing economy after this weekend’s presidential elections.

“Everyone knows there’ll be devaluation,” said Mr. House, whose firm oversees £250 billion ($378.89 billion) in assets.

Removing currency controls is one of several reforms president-elect Mauricio Macri has vowed to make in an effort to boost Argentina’s competitiveness and to lure foreign investors back to the country.

Many foreign investors don’t want to get in while the peso is artificially high, fearing that they’ll be the ones to bear the brunt in a coming devaluation. But once the devaluation happens, the decks are more clear. A concurrent relaxation of currency controls would also remove a major roadblock to investors worried that they mightn’t be able to get out.

Marcelo Assalin, head of emerging market debt at NN Investment Partners, hasn’t been involved in Argentina since early 2014, when he was put off by uncertainty around being able to repatriate money from the country.

But he said he could be tempted back if the Macri administration follows through on the reforms it has promised.

“Investors won’t invest in Argentina until we have a currency devaluation. Investors need to be comfortable they’re not getting into another trap,” said Mr. Assalin, whose firm oversees €180 billion ($191.23 billion) in assets.

But Mr. Macri’s victory is still encouraging, he says. “It’s a large country, with big opportunities,” Mr. Assalin added.

Maintaining an artificially strong peso helped the administration of outgoing president Cristina Kirchner contain inflation, which is already estimated to reach 25% this year.

But the currency controls hurt companies selling their goods abroad, deterred foreign investors and encouraged Argentines fearful of having their savings erased to hoard dollars.

Propping up the peso has also been costly, contributing to a sharp fall in foreign-currency reserves that have almost halved since 2011 to $26 billion.

Investors have welcomed the prospect of a more business-friendly administration, pushing up stocks and bonds in recent weeks after Mr. Macri moved ahead in the polls ahead of Sunday’s presidential election.

Mr. Macri previously said he would lift currency controls, but has yet to outline how he will do so.

Argentina has let the peso weaken somewhat this year, though at a pace far less than inflation. That means that, in real, trade-weighted terms, the peso has actually strengthened around 15% this year through the end of October, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

But lifting currency controls and allowing the peso to fall more radically poses risks: from stoking already-high inflation to denting the value of local-currency investments when translated back into U.S. dollars.

Some investors reckon Mr. Macri will have to take a gradual approach to implementing his pro-market agenda given many measures are likely to be unpopular, his election victory was narrow and the opposition Peronist movement holds power in both houses of congress.

Denise Prime, a London-based emerging-market investment specialist at GAM Holding, expects Buenos Aires to weaken the peso by 25% in early December after Mr. Macri takes power to coincide with the lifting of an export tax on soybeans that is planned for the same time. That should incentivize farmers to sell their crop on the international market and show the benefits of a weaker currency, she said.

Still, Ms. Prime expects Argentine economic growth to take a hit in the first half of 2016, with the central bank likely having to raise rates in response to higher inflation following the currency weakening.

Pilar Tavella, an economist at Barclays, said a change of leadership at Argentina’s central bank, as well as a recapitalization of the institution, would be needed before the exchange controls are relaxed. Meanwhile, the Macri administration needs to outline a credible set of monetary policies to avoid the currency weakening too much, she said.

“It’s very hard to say what the value of the peso will be. A higher overshooting [on the currency] could lead us to have higher inflation,” she said.

Non-deliverable forward contracts, a type of derivative, show investors expect the exchange rate to fall to around 16 pesos to the dollar six months from now from the current official rate of around 9.7.

Money managers have factored in the impact of a weaker currency on their investments. Ms. Prime, whose firm oversees 124 billion Swiss francs ($121.57 billion) in assets, recently bought a small amount of peso-denominated debt issued by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, which she says trades with a yield of around 80%. Even if there is a sharp devaluation, the yield would still be sufficiently high.

—Taos Turner contributed to this article.

5. ARGENTINA TAKES A TURN FOR THE BETTER (Miami Herald)
November 23, 2015

Voters weary of Mrs. Kirchner’s destructive populism
Mr. Macri a pro-market economic pragmatist
He would do well to repair relations with United States

Argentina’s voters opted for a better future on Sunday by electing Mauricio Macri to the presidency, replacing an exhausted political dynasty whose populist policies led the country to the brink of ruin with a pragmatic center-right figure aligned with pro-market forces.

After eight years with Cristina Fernández de Kirchner at the helm, following the four-year term of her late husband, Néstor Kirchner, the country was overdue for a change toward sound economics and less political and social polarization. Such was the promise of Mr. Macri’s underdog campaign. He chose tolerance over confrontation in defeating Danilo Scioli, a former vice president under Mr. Kirchner.

Voters were plainly tired of Mrs. Kirchner, who often demonized the private sector and anyone who disagreed with her government. Under her, Argentina’s domestic politics became progressively harsher and meaner. She thrived on controversy and political feuds. Self-promotion and blistering attacks on rivals and critics became hallmarks of her tenure at Casa Rosada, Argentina’s national palace.

On the international front, she courted Iran’s radical leaders and made common cause with leftist political figures throughout the region whose own populist schemes were as destructive as her own, if not more so, including the late Hugo Chávez and his successor as president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.

Mr. Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires, has wisely vowed to maintain some popular social programs introduced by the Kirchners, including cash subsidies for poor families. He also said he plans to keep some big nationalized companies, like Aerolineas Argentinas, under government control, but he also promised to steer a centrist economic course and work with, instead of against, the private sector.

It is in the realm of foreign policy where his ideas stand in sharpest contrast to those fostered by Mrs. Kirchner.

He has vowed to end her close ties with Venezuela and even said he will call for that country’s suspension from the regional economic group known as Mercosur for not complying with the bloc’s democratic clause requiring members to abide by democratic principles. That would further weaken an increasingly isolated President Maduro, who faces parliamentary elections on Dec. 6 that do not bode well for his party.

Relations with the United States are also likely to improve under Mr. Macri, who will happily tone down Mrs. Kirchner’s pointless anti-American rhetoric and reach out to both the U.S. government and private business. Years of strained relations with major industrial nations have left Argentina broke and economically isolated. It needs to restart its economy and restore a strong private sector alongside a business establishment that has confidence in the nation’s government — which was impossible under Mrs. Kirchner.

Nothing could do more to raise his nation’s international profile than for Mr. Macri to annul Argentina’s agreement with Iran to jointly investigate the deadly 1994 attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. This smelly deal, fostered by Mrs. Kirchner, is simply a cover-up of Iran’s responsibility for the attack. Instead, Mr. Macri should order an investigation into why the outgoing government was so willing to get in bed with Iran over this horrendous crime.

One election does not a trend make. But certainly the decision by Argentina’s voters to reject the Kirchner legacy suggests that the populist strain may have run its destructive course throughout Argentina and the region. It can’t happen too soon.

6. ARGENTINA OUTLOOK LIFTED TO POSITIVE AT MOODY’S (Financial Times)
November 24, 2015

Argentina still has a long way to go before it can return to the international debt market, but its newly elected president Mauricio Macri got a small vote of confidence from Moody’s, which raised its outlook on the country’s credit rating.

Moody’s, the only one of the big three ratings agencies to still have a view on Argentina after the country defaulted on some of its debts in the summer of 2014, raised its outlook on the rating to positive from stable.

It kept its Caa1 deep junk rating on the country.

It said the change in outlook is based on the view that Mr Macri’s election victory will result in more market-friendly economic policies that will help turn around Argentina’s struggling economy.

Moody’s said:

The main driver of the outlook change to positive from stable is Moody’s expectation that Argentina’s policy stance will become more credit positive in the aftermath of Sunday’s elections in which Mauricio Macri was elected Argentina’s president for the 2015-19 term.

A prompt resolution of the holdout saga is a key Macri pledge in this regard, and is required for the government to borrow abroad, which it will probably need to do in order to meet upcoming debt service obligations

We expect the new administration to devote efforts to improving the economic and institutional environment over the coming months, through a series of reforms aimed at tackling persistently high levels of inflation and lack of data accountability.

7. FALKLAND OIL EXPLORERS PLAN MERGER IN EFFORT TO START PRODUCTION (Financial Times)
By Kiran Stacey, Energy Correspondent
November 24, 2015

Two of the companies drilling for oil off the Falkland Islands are set to combine efforts after Rockhopper agreed an all-share takeover of Falkland Oil and Gas.

The companies announced on Tuesday that shareholders in FOGL would receive just under a third of a Rockhopper share for each of theirs.

Based on the valuation of London-listed Rockhopper at the end of Monday’s trading, that would value each FOGL share at 10.7p, an 11 per cent premium to Monday’s closing price, which values the combined company at about £57.1m.

The companies described the deal as a merger, but Rockhopper executives will be in charge of the combined group. Tim Bushell, chief executive of FOGL, and John Martin, its chairman, are to become non-executive directors. The board of FOGL said it would unanimously recommend the deal to its shareholders.

The history of drilling for oil and gas in the Falklands has been a bumpy one, marked by optimism and disappointment. Shares in Rockhopper hit close to £4 in 2012, but are now worth around 35p.

Rockhopper was the first company to discover oil in the seas north of the disputed islands, when it discovered the Sea Lion field in 2010. It had hoped to begin production from that field by 2017, but engineering challenges, a lack of financial support and the collapsing oil price have pushed that start date back.

Sam Moody, Rockhopper’s chief executive, told the Financial Times earlier this year he hoped a scaled-down plan for the field, costing $1.8bn or less in initial expenditure, could start production before 2020. The companies said on Tuesday the takeover would mean “enhanced prospects of progressing the Sea Lion project through its final investment decision”.

There have also been political challenges as Argentina continues to claim sovereignty over the islands it calls the Malvinas. Earlier this year, Argentina launched legal action against three British-listed companies, including both Rockhopper and FOGL, as well as their larger rival Premier Oil, for illegal drilling.

Pierre Jungels, Rockhopper’s chairman, said: “By combining Rockhopper and FOGL, we shall create a more coherent licence ownership structure in the North Falkland Basin, driven by a technically accomplished organisation with a strong exploration and appraisal track record, well positioned to access the opportunities in this emerging hydrocarbon province.”

John Martin, FOGL’s chairman, said: “The enhanced scale, capabilities and financial position of the merged FOGL and Rockhopper entity will provide FOGL shareholders with a platform from which to bring these quality resources into development.”

Rockhopper’s executives told the Financial Times on Tuesday they believed the deal would help attract another financial backer to help them begin production at Sea Lion, by offering increased access to assets in the area.

Mr Moody said: “In the discussions we have had with third party backers, it became apparent that access to those barrels [owned by FOGL] and that upside is something that had to be sorted out to get them in.”

Mr Moody also said the recent election of Mauricio Macri, the conservative mayor of Buenos Aires, as president, would improve the company’s prospects in the region.

Analysts at Citigroup said: “The combined company will be the largest licence and resource holder in the North Falklands basin and should benefit from increased scale that could help the company seek additional financing in order to help fund their share of future development (Sea Lion) and exploration and appraisal activities in the region.”

8. MACRI’S WIN IN ARGENTINA GIVES REFORM A SECOND CHANCE (Chicago Tribune)
November 24, 2015

Mauricio Macri’s victory in Argentina’s presidential election has raised expectations of a big shift in policy after 12 years of leftist rule. Living up to those hopes won’t be easy.

Macri’s margin of victory was slender and he faces some formidable obstacles. To push through the economic liberalization he’s promised, the new president will have to be a smart tactician and choose his targets carefully.
Argentina’s reserves are at a nine-year low, and currency controls put in place by the administration of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner have created a black market that values the dollar at 15 pesos, versus 9.7 at the official rate. Macri’s campaign promise to let the peso float right away would have triggered a big devaluation and immediate instability. Wisely, he’s reconsidered. His first priority should be a fiscal program that restores the public finances, preparing the way for currency reform.

Macri also pledged to remove export taxes that have transformed Argentina’s productive farmers into world-class hoarders. This too makes sense as a medium-term goal — but in the short run and without offsetting measures, it would worsen the country’s fiscal deficit, which stands at a 30-year high. Temporary export-tax relief, pending a full fiscal reform, is the best way to proceed.

Restoring Argentina’s access to international credit markets is vital. That will take a deal with holdout creditors, reviled as “vulture funds” by Fernandez. Her party passed a law that requires any deal to be approved by the legislature, which is still dominated by Fernandez’s party and other Peronist factions.

To win sufficient backing, Macri will have to contend with a larger historical legacy. During the 1990s, Argentina did a lot to free its economy and enjoyed a period of strong growth. Soon, though, it all went wrong because of fiscal indiscipline and an increasingly overvalued exchange rate. The crash that followed was harrowing — and for many Argentines, discredited the very idea of liberalization.

Macri’s victory shows that voters are tired of heavy-handed populism and are willing to give pro-market reforms another chance. To seize the moment, the new president must be cautious but deliberate. He can’t end export taxes in one fell swoop, but he can abolish export quotas. He’ll have to move gradually on currency reform, but he can cut the tangle of red tape that suppresses trade without delay. Plans to fix the country’s dodgy statistics needn’t wait, nor his proposals to overhaul the economic policy-making machinery. Most urgent, though, are a new fiscal strategy and moves toward a settlement with creditors.

A lot is riding on Macri, and not for his country alone. If he puts Argentina’s limping economy on a path to faster growth, he could help lift spirits across the wider region and turn global investors’ attention back to Latin America’s enormous potential — something else that can’t happen fast enough.

9. MACRI REITERATES THAT CURRENCY CONTROLS ARE ON THEIR WAY OUT (Chicago Tribune)
November 24, 2015

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Opposition candidate Mauricio Macri won Argentina’s presidential election on Sunday after campaigning on a platform of change following 12 years of rule by Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her late husband.

Here is how Macri has explained what that change will involve:

– Macri reiterated Tuesday his plan to lift currency controls on his first full day in office. Asked by the Clarin newspaper if the controls would be removed gradually or on Dec. 11, he replied “December 11.” On Monday, he had said that Argentina would have only one exchange rate “when things get in order.”

– The president-elect says he would re-establish the central bank’s independence and would seek to remove bank President Alejandro Vanoli, whom he claims isn’t qualified for the job. “We’re going to see what the real state is of the public accounts is, what the real situation is of the central bank,” he said Monday. Macri will seek Vanoli’s removal before he assumes office on Dec. 10, Cronista reported Tuesday, citing sources within Macri’s economic team.
– Macri says Argentina should seek to end a conflict with holdout hedge funds from the 2001 default. Still, faced with criticism that he is selling the country out to “vulture” funds, he pledges to seek the best deal possible for Argentina. Perhaps seeking to strengthen his bargaining power, Macri said in an interview on Tuesday that while ending the standoff is important, it’s not his immediate priority.

– Macri’s energy adviser Juan Jose Aranguren said that 2 million families or 16 percent of households will continue to receive virtually free electricity. With the budget deficit soaring to about 7.2 percent of gross domestic product this year, many others may face cuts. Macri said in an interview with La Nacion on Tuesday that while the energy sector needs reforming, he will remove subsidies gradually and maintain them for the poor.

– Macri’s adviser Juan Jose Aranguren says energy independence is not a priority and would import some energy needs while global oil prices are low.

–Macri has said he will remove tariffs on grains including corn, wheat and sunflower seeds and says he will reduce the tax on soy by 5 percent per year. Two of his advisers told Bloomberg he may introduce a 90-day tax amnesty to encourage farmers to sell an estimated $8 billion of hoarded grains.

–Macri says he can reach single-digit inflation within two years. He has said his government won’t lie about official numbers and pledged to reform the statistics agency.

– Macri says he will revise the tax system to reflect inflation so that those who weren’t paying tax in 2007 won’t need to do so now. He said Monday he will raise the income tax threshold

10. ARGENTINA’S MACRI TAPS BAN KI-MOON AIDE AS FOREIGN MINISTER (Bloomberg News)
By Charlie Devereux
November 24, 2015

Argentina’s President-elect Mauricio Macri tapped United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s cabinet chief as his foreign minister in his first major appointment since winning Sunday’s election.

Susana Malcorra, who was born in Rosario in Santa Fe province in 1954, was appointed by Ban Ki-Moon in 2012. Prior to that she worked as Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme and as an executive at IBM and Telecom Argentina.

Macri defeated ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli in a runoff vote on Nov. 22 on a pledge to unwind President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s currency controls and trade protectionism and open up Argentina’s economy. With foreign reserves plunging to a nine-year low, he has emphasized the need to lure foreign investment to replenish the central bank’s coffers.

“She is coming to add her vision of international politics in this new stage of change that we will soon begin,” Macri said in a post on his Facebook account. “Argentina needs to connect with the rest of the world’s countries in order to develop opportunities for growth and prosperity for all Argentines.”

11. ARGENTINA’S CREDIT OUTLOOK RAISED BY MOODY’S AFTER MACRI WIN (Bloomberg News)
By Carolina Millan
November 24, 2015

* Prompt resolution of `holdout saga’ is key pledge: Moody’s
* Moody’s to watch proposed reform of national statistics agency

Argentina’s credit outlook was raised by Moody’s Investors Service to positive amid optimism that president-elect Mauricio Macri will implement changes to boost the credibility of South America’s second-largest economy.

The decision comes two days after second-round presidential elections, where opposition candidate Macri beat ruling-party’s Daniel Scioli. Moody’s had previously raised the country’s outlook from negative to stable on Nov. 2, a week after a first-round vote.

Argentina has been locked out of international credit markets following a decade-long legal battle with holdouts from its 2001 default. The credit rating could further increase depending on “the nature of future policy announcements and the anticipated pace of implementation,” including a resolution with holdout creditors, according to the New York-based firm. Moody’s rates Argentina Caa1, or seven levels below investment grade.

“Mr. Macri has consistently and increasingly made clear his administration’s policies will represent a major market-friendly break from those observed during the last 12 years,” Moody’s analysts led by Gabriel Torres wrote in a statement. “A prompt resolution of the holdout saga is a key Macri pledge in this regard, and is required for the government to borrow abroad, which it will probably need to do in order to meet upcoming debt service obligations.”

Investors are now watching Macri’s next steps as he changes course from the populist policies of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Inflation is estimated to be at 24 percent, foreign reserves are at a nine-year low, the currency is overvalued and controls have damped foreign investors’ desire to bring their money to the country.

In addition to a resolution with the holdouts, Torres said in a phone interview that Moody’s will pay close attention to Macri’s proposed reform of the national statistics agency. The reliability of the country’s economic data has been questioned by the International Monetary Fund and analysts.

“One of the greatest challenges of analyzing Argentina is that official data is not reliable,” Torres said from Buenos Aires. “We don’t really know exactly what’s happening with unemployment, growth, inflation, and other measures. Having a reliable statistics agency will be a big signal that the country’s policies are changing.”

Standard & Poor’s analyst Daniela Brandazza wrote in a note Tuesday that the election results have no effect on the company’s selective default credit rating for Argentina’s sovereign debt.

“The foreign currency ratings will remain at ‘SD’ until Argentina cures the default, through payment, exchange, or other settlement,” she wrote. “If and when that happens, we will reassess the sovereign’s general credit standing, most likely raising the foreign currency rating to the ‘CCC’ or low ‘B’ categories.”

12. ARGENTINA’S NEW PRESIDENT WON’T BE VENEZUELA’S FRIEND (Bloomberg News)
By Mac Margolis
November 24, 2015

Fresh off a bruising campaign that toppled a political dynasty and split Argentina in two, incoming president Mauricio Macri was blunt at a Monday news conference. “If I said I’d do it, we’ll do it,” he declared when asked if he planned to make good on his campaign promise to bring Venezuela’s autocratic regime to task for violating human rights and trampling democracy.

Macri vowed that he’d press neighbors and allies to question Venezuela’s claim to be a democracy. “It’s clear that what’s happening in Venezuela has nothing to do with the democratic commitments that we have pledged to keep in Argentina,” he said.

The broader message of the need to safeguard democracy should not be lost on Latin America, a region where authoritarians linger — in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia — but a clubby pact keeps democratically minded leaders from raising a fuss.

Consider Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, who was first elected on a vow to speak up when human rights were under assault. She has yet to raise her voice against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who like his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, has strengthened his hand by intimidating the critics he hasn’t jailed. Maduro has blocked all outside observers — save a delegation from the Chavez-inspired Union of South American Nations — from monitoring Venezuela’s Dec. 6 legislative vote, including Rousseff’s own envoy.

True, Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, recently sent Maduro’s government an 18-page letter rebuking it for stifling political dissent and rigging the rules against political opponents. But the organization’s Inter-American Democratic Charter has only been invoked twice against truculent countries since its 2001 signing. The one admonishment directed at Venezuela censured not Chavismo’s excesses, but enemies of the regime who plotted a 2002 coup against Chavez that later failed.

Macri’s tough stance is remarkable not only because of Latin America’s diffidence before strongmen, but also because of the Argentine government’s cozy relations with the Bolivarian Republic. Outgoing president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner didn’t just look the other way when Chavez, and then Maduro, trampled democratic rights. She struck a strategic alliance with Venezuela.

After a massive debt default shut Argentina out of the international credit market, then-president Chavez swooped in to buy Argentine bonds. When Chavez’s calamitous economic policies led to soaring inflation and emptied supermarket shelves, Fernandez came to the rescue with shipments of beef and other food staples in exchange for Venezuelan oil.

In 2007, an airport security officer in Buenos Aires caught a Florida businessman just off a flight from Venezuela’s capital carrying a suitcase with about $790,000. The money was reportedly an off-the-books donation from Chavez’s government to Fernandez’s reelection campaign.

In 2012, Argentina hosted a meeting of the Mercosur trade bloc where countries voted to suspend Paraguay from the group after its legislature ousted unpopular President Fernando Lugo. Paraguay happened to be the only country opposed to Venezuela joining the bloc, and with it out of the way, Venezuela was quickly welcomed into the fold.

Macri has now vowed to put Venezuela’s ejection on the table at Mercosur’s next meeting. Indeed, the new president — who takes office Dec. 10 — will have his hands full, trying to rescue a sinking economy and govern before a largely hostile legislature. But whatever his election means for domestic policy, it seems clear that Venezuela is about to lose its last best friend. In a region where democracy is still at risk, that’s something to celebrate.

13. ARGENTINE PRESIDENT-ELECT WANTS ‘TOUGH’ DEBT DEFAULT TALKS (Reuters News)
By Richard Lough and Sarah Marsh in Buenos Aires and Daniel Bases in New York
Nov 24, 2015

Argentine President-elect Mauricio Macri plans to push through economic reforms that will buy him time for a “tough negotiation” with U.S. hedge funds suing the South American country over unpaid sovereign debt, he told the daily Clarin newspaper.

The pro-business Macri, who narrowly won Sunday’s presidential election, vows to get Argentina’s stalled economy moving again but needs to settle a decade-long legal battle with the holdout creditors before he can return to global credit markets.

“We’re not worried about this,” Macri said in the interview published on Tuesday. “We want to bring policy solutions that give us time to establish a framework for a tough negotiation so that we can defend the rights of Argentines.”

That will mean finding a quick way to bolster the central bank’s dwindling foreign currency reserves, which have fallen to a nine-year low below $26 billion as outgoing President Cristina Fernandez battles to prop up the peso currency ARS=RASL.

Macri campaigned on a promises of sweeping economic reforms to tackle weak growth, high inflation and a burgeoning fiscal deficit after more than a decade of free-spending leftist populism.
Macri told Clarin his government might issue debt to finance a backlog in payments for imports, estimated by economists at $8 billion.

Argentina’s debt fight with New York hedge funds led by billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management plunged Latin America’s No. 3 economy back into default last year. The holdouts rejected sharp haircuts on their bondholdings after Argentina’s record 2002 default and demand full repayment.

Many Argentines supported leftist Fernandez’s unflinching stance against the creditors and the U.S. judge who ruled in favor of the creditors, and Macri has said he will haggle hard in talks.

Elliott Management did not responded to several requests for comment since Macri’s election win. A second complainant, Aurelius Capital Management, declined to comment on the election results.
The U.S. judge overseeing the litigation last month ruled in favor of complainants in 49 lawsuits seeking the same treatment as Elliott Management’s NML Capital Ltd and Aurelius Capital.

14. ARGENTINE PRESIDENT-ELECT PICKS U.N. INSIDER AS HIS TOP DIPLOMAT (Reuters News)
By Hugh Bronstein and Louis Charbonneau
24 November 2015

BUENOS AIRES/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Argentine President-elect Mauricio Macri named U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s chief adviser as his future foreign minister, signaling a sharp break from the diplomacy of outgoing leader Cristina Fernandez.

Macri said on Tuesday that Susana Malcorra will be his top foreign representative after his Dec. 10 inauguration.

U.N. diplomats and officials described Malcorra as the second-most powerful person in the United Nations system. Ban relies on her on matters ranging from the war in Syria to diplomatic minefields such as the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

“She has vast and detailed knowledge of the agenda that moves the world,” Macri said in a statement.

Malcorra will succeed Fernandez’s Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, known on the international stage for his appeals over the Falkland Islands and campaign against bondholders, who he calls “vultures” for suing Argentina over defaulted sovereign debt.

“Argentina’s foreign policy under Fernandez was mostly domestically oriented, benefiting from a ‘rally round the flag’ effect,” said Buenos Aires-based political analyst Ignacio Labaqui “Macri’s first announcements signal a clear change.”

Fernandez, for example, is an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who Macri says should be suspended from the Mercosur trade bloc over his jailing of political opponents.

A major plank of Fernandez’s foreign policy has been her failed effort to open talks with Great Britain over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, which are close to Argentina in the South Atlantic but governed by the British.

Macri, the business-friendly mayor of Buenos Aires who vows to retract Fernandez’s protectionist trade controls, won Sunday’s run-off vote against Fernandez ally Daniel Scioli. His election was hailed by Venezuela’s opposition as a blow against leftists across Latin America.

Malcorra was born in Rosario, which is also hometown to revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara and soccer phenomenon Lionel Messi. She has been Ban’s chief of staff since 2012.

“Ms. Malcorra has been by my side during one of the busiest and most-turbulent periods in the history of the United Nations,” Ban said in a statement. “Throughout, I have treasured her advice, admired her dedication and benefited from her leadership.”

Prior to her appointment as Ban’s chief-of-staff, Malcorra was U.N. under-secretary-general for field support, making her one of a small group of the most important peace keeping officials.

(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations; Editing by Alan Crosby)

15. ARGENTINES BRACE FOR OVERHAULS UNDER MACRI (Dow Jones Institutional News)
By Taos Turner
25 November 2015

BUENOS AIRES–President-elect Mauricio Macri has vowed to transform Argentina’s economy by curbing currency controls and restoring investor confidence. But while business leaders here welcome his plans, they say some policies, including a widely expected devaluation, could be painful in the short term.

Topping the list of challenges facing Mr. Macri when he takes office on Dec. 10 is a two-headed monster: 25% inflation and an artificially strong currency that has made Argentine goods uncompetitive abroad. Besides grappling with that, he will be called upon to move quickly to stanch the bleeding of foreign-currency reserves at Argentina’s central bank, which importers say owes them more than $9 billion for goods they have brought into the country.

“We don’t know how many dollars we’re going to get,” said Isela Costantini, president of General Motors Co. in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. “It’s not that I’m telling you that we don’t know what’s going to happen in three months or in one year. We don’t know what’s going to happen next week.”

The dearth of greenbacks affects companies big and small, and has caused problems for imports of everything from automotive parts and surgical gloves to screws and bolts needed to maintain manufacturing equipment. It also hurts farmers.

“I import chemicals from China. I have to pay the Chinese and I can’t pay them because I can’t get the dollars to do it. So this creates a problem for me because if I can’t import, I have to close my factory,” said Gustavo Grobocopatel, chief executive of Grupo Los Grobo, one of Argentina’s biggest agribusiness firms.

Departing President Cristina Kirchner imposed the foreign-exchange controls in 2011, seeking to contain rising demand for dollars. But the move had the opposite effect. Since then the central bank’s official reserves have plummeted to below $26 billion from $52 billion–and many local economists say the bank’s net balance is negative.

“We don’t know how many reserves there are,” Mr. Macri said Monday, adding that Argentina’s economic statistics are so unreliable that his economic team will have to take office and evaluate the situation before announcing policy initiatives.

Mr. Macri has called for the resignation of Central Bank President Alejandro Vanoli, who is under investigation for allegations that he directed the bank to illegally sell dollar derivatives at a low exchange rate, potentially costing the central bank billions of dollars. Mr. Vanoli, who has accused Mr. Macri of planning a devaluation, denies wrongdoing and says the bank was acting to defend the value of the peso.

Former government officials and economists warn that currency controls are difficult to dismantle, and that doing so abruptly could lead Argentines to ditch their pesos en masse, making it even harder for the central bank to oversee a smooth transition to a new exchange-rate system.

Many Argentines have already been buying dollars to protect their savings ahead of a possible devaluation. Others have stocked up on cars, televisions and other goods before prices rise.

“I came to the shopping center today to buy a cellphone because I was told prices would rise,” said Juliana Levy, 38, a ballet dancer. “I don’t think Macri will devalue abruptly. In any case, in Argentina we’re used to devaluations.”

Argentina has a largely fixed official exchange rate, which is now 9.68 pesos to the dollar. But since the government doesn’t have enough dollars to meet demand, people have turned to a thriving black market, where dollars currently sell for around 15 pesos.

Mr. Macri has said those diverging rates could eventually converge if the government let the fixed rate slide, but he has provided few details about when this might happen. And he has said he would be a Nobel Prize winner in economics if he knew exactly what that rate would be.

“There is a significant amount of money outside of Argentina from Argentines who are waiting for a more benign economic environment. So I suspect the pain will be short-lived,” said Jorge Mariscal, chief investment officer for emerging markets at UBS Wealth Management, which manages $1 trillion in assets.

Observers say Mr. Macri will also have to reduce costly gas and electricity subsidies to narrow a rapidly rising budget gap. But that could hit poor people hard if they are not targeted exclusively to middle and upper-income households.

“One of the things Argentina has learned in recent years is that it has to change things in ways that don’t leave people behind. Otherwise, the changes will be unsustainable,” said Mr. Grobocopatel.

Mr. Grobocopatel, known here as the “soybean king” because of his agricultural production, estimates that exporters are hoarding between $6 billion and $10 billion worth of soybeans and other food products. Dollar inflows could rise significantly if Mr. Macri cuts a 35% export tax on soybean exports and fixes the exchange-rate system.

Mr. Macri is also hoping to obtain fresh funding from international banks which are already negotiating a multibillion package of loans to the country, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Alberto Messer contributed to this article.

16. ARGENTINA OUTLOOK IMPROVED AFTER ELECTION, BUT DEBT LOOMS, MOODY’S SAYS (Barrons)
By Dimitra DeFotis
November 24, 2015

Moody’s Investors Services said the outlook has improved for Argentina’s credit market, though it cautioned investors are still likely to suffer losses on defaulted debt.
The Global X MSCI Argentina exchange-traded fund (ARGT) is down 0.3% today. State-controlled oil producer YPF (YPF) is down 1.3%. Banks Banco Macro (BMA),BVA Banco Frances (BFR and Grupo Financiero Galicia (GGAL) are all lower, as is internet sales platform MercadoLibre (MELI).

Moody’s changed its outlook to postive from stable on Argentina’s Caa1 issuer rating, and on (P)Caa2 foreign-legislation and restructured local-legislation foreign currency obligations, citing Mauricio Macri’s narrow win over Daniel Scioli, the would-be successor to outgoing Peronist President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner likely means “a major market-friendly break” from the last 12 years:

“The main driver of the outlook change to positive from stable is Moody’s expectation that Argentina’s policy stance will become more credit positive in the aftermath of Sunday’s elections in which Mauricio Macri was elected Argentina’s president for the 2015-19 term … President-elect Macri will take office on 10 December, becoming only the third non-Peronist President since 1983 …

A prompt resolution of the holdout [bond-investor] saga is a key Macri pledge … and is required for the government to borrow abroad, which it will probably need to do in order to meet upcoming debt service obligations. Official reserves have fallen to below $22 billion, raising uncertainty about the government’s ability to meet 2016 debt service obligations and adding pressure for a swift resolution with holdout creditors.

In addition, we expect the new administration to devote efforts to improving the economic and institutional environment over the coming months, through a series of reforms aimed at tackling persistently high levels of inflation and lack of data accountability. At around 25%, Argentina’s inflation rate is one of the highest in the region and among sovereigns rated by Moody’s.”

That said, Moody’s affirmed ratings on defaulted bonds, writing:

“The (P)Caa2 rating on the foreign legislation and restructured local legislation foreign currency obligations reflects the likelihood of higher losses to investors from the continuing default of bonds caught in he ongoing legal proceedings in US courts, thereby differentiating this portion of Argentina’s debt from the rest.”

17. CAN A CENTRIST SAVE ARGENTINA? (The Daily Beast)
Nov. 25, 2015

After 12 years under the leftist De Kirchners, Argetina just elected a center-right president—but can he fix the country’s disastrous economy?

After 12 years of rule by Nestor de Kirchner and his wife, Cristina Fernandez, Argentina welcomed a new era on Sunday with the former mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, winning the presidential election.

Macri is the first president, since the return of democracy in 1983, to not belong to one of the two main parties in Argentina, the Radicalists or the Peronists. This could end up being a major challenge for his government. He also inherits deep economic difficulties from outgoing president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s time in office.

Unlike the left-leaning Fernandez de Kirchner, Macri is a center-right politician and former businessman who has promised to lift foreign exchange market regulations, devaluate the peso, and reduce taxes on exports. He also has said he plans to implement several harsh or unpopular measures, such as cuts in public spending and higher prices for public services.

The biggest problem that Argentina’s economy faces right now is the appalling lack of U.S. dollars in the economy and the Central Bank reserves, along with a sky-high inflation rate, which is expected to rise over 30 percent next year.

To solve the first issue, Macri is expected to bring a dramatic shift in the country’s relations to the international financial community. At the top of his to-do list is definitively closing the 2002 default complaints and regaining access to international capital markets. He also will look to revive relationships with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other multinational financial entities.

Also on the agenda: cleaning up the state’s statistics institute, which now provides official but unreliable data on prices, employment and social indicators such as poverty and economic growth. Getting accurate data will be crucial in rebuilding foreign confidence in Argentina’s credit-worthiness, especially as Argentina has issued bonds that adjust by inflation or GDP.

The new political and economic era that Macri promises to inaugrate in Argentina is also of major importance to the rest of Latin America. In the past decade, both Kirchner administrations had chosen the anti-U.S. governments of Venezuela and Ecuador and Boliiva as main allies. This will surely change, as Macri has already announce that he plans to overhaul Argetina’s foreign policy. And indeed, after his victory, he repeated statements he had made during the campaign about requesting Venezuela’s suspension from Mercosur for “breaking” the regional bloc’s democratic clause.

And while Merci said he expects to “build good relations with our brothers,” he also warned that Venezuela must respond to the bloc’s democratic clause and cautioned the Nicolás Maduro administration about its ‘persuction’ of opposition leaders there. He also vowed to improve ties among Mercosur members, especially Brazil, and the with the European Union.

“We have to recover the dynamics in the Mercosur and with the European Union to converge towards the Pacific Alliance,” said Macri, who will assume office on December 10. “Integration will have to do with the dynamics of the Mercosur that has been frozen over the past years.”

18. VICTORY FOR MACRI AUGURS A DECISIVE SHIFT ARGENTINA (Forbes)
By Thomaz Favaro
November 25, 2015

BUENOS AIRES – After years of viewing Argentina as a challenging jurisdiction to do business, multinational corporations greeted the election of Mauricio Macri, mayor of Buenos Aires and leader of center-right opposition Let’s Change (Cambiemos) coalition, as a breath of fresh air. Marci won the first ever presidential run-off in Argentina’s history on November 22, ending a twelve year period of increasingly statist government under presidents Cristina Fernández and her late husband and predecessor Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007).

Macri has been mayor of Buenos Aires since 2007 and in that time has been one of Fernández’s staunchest critics. He entered politics in 2005, when he founded the Republican Proposal party (PRO) in 2005 – prior to that he was a civil engineer and successful businessman. Together with the Civic Radical Union (UCR) and a range of smaller parties they created the conservative, market-oriented Cambiemos coalition in this general election.

Once thought to be a long-shot, Macri took 51.4% of the vote, winning outright in the populous provinces of Jujuy, La Rioja, San Luis, La Pampa, Mendoza, Córdoba, Santa Fe and Entre Ríos, as well as in the capital Buenos Aires.

Opponent Daniel Scioli, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s handpicked choice as her successor, only took 48.6% of the vote. So ends the long tenure of kirchnerismo with its expropriations, bondholder lawsuits and defaults.

While Macri has pledged not to roll back many of the welfare programs introduced by the Kirchners, the country’s trade unions as well as the political opposition will monitor the implementation of Macri’s economic plans and could take to the streets if reforms are perceived to run against their interests.

In the election, the fragile state of Argentina’s economy proved to be pivotal. Rising government deficit, legal fights with creditors abroad and efforts to mask persistent high levels of inflation triggered the electorate’s desire for a partial liberalization of economic policies. The government’s confrontational stance against its critics – including the media and the judiciary – has also generated a backlash against Fernández. Macri’s focus on reducing state intervention via protectionism, currency controls, price controls and export taxes hit the nail on the head for many Argentines.

Under Macri, the Economy Ministry will not be headed by a single individual. Instead a Treasury and Finance Minister along with a team of six officials will share the duties of running Argentina’s economy as members of an economy cabinet.

Despite Macri’s mandate, his ability to pass and implement structural reform will be limited by his party’s weak position in Congress. Fernández’s Front for Victory (FPV) remains a clear majority in the Senate (upper houses) and a plurality in the Chamber of Deputies (lower house). Thus many reforms will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis to secure approval.

The reduction of public spending and the state’s role in the economy will produce an initial shock likely to trigger bouts of civil unrest. This threat is further complicated by the fact that Macri will become the third non-Peronist leader since the end of military rule in 1983. Neither of his two predecessors finished their terms, a reminder of the difficulties entrenched Peronist interests may give Macri if he proves unable to negotiate with the opposition.

19. WHY MACRI’S WIN IS BAD NEWS FOR ARGENTINA (Fortune)
By Mark Weisbrot
November 24, 2015 IT IS ONLY FAIR TO SHOW A DISSENTING VIEW, EVEN IF IT IS COMPLETELY AGAINST OUR THINKING.

The election of right-wing candidate Mauricio Macri as Argentina’s president on Sunday, which was unexpected just a few months ago, is a setback for Argentina and for South America.

In the past 13 years, Argentina made enormous economic and social progress. Under the Kirchners (first Néstor and then Cristina Fernández de Kirchner), poverty fell by about 70%, and extreme poverty fell by 80%. NOT REALLY (This is for 2003 to mid-2013, the last year for which independent estimates are available; they are also based on independent estimates of inflation.) Unemployment fell from more than 17.2% to 6.9%, according to the International Monetary Fund. .

But Daniel Scioli—the candidate of the Peronist “Front for Victory” party who represented the governing coalition, including President Fernández—did not do a good job defending these achievements. He also didn’t seem to make clear what he would do to fix the country’s current economic problems. In the past four years, growth has been slow (averaging about 1.1% percent), inflation has been high, and a black market for the dollar has developed. This gave Macri (and his “Cambiemos,” or “Let’s Change” coalition) an opening to present himself as the candidate of a better future.

With skilled marketing help from an Ecuadorean public relations firm, Macri defined himself as something far more moderate than he is likely to be, winning over voters who might otherwise be afraid of a return to the pre-Kirchner depression years.

Some of the things Macri has indicated he would do could have a positive impact, if done correctly. He will likely cut a deal with vulture funds that have been holding more than 90% of Argentina’s creditors hostage since New York judge Thomas Griesa ruled in 2014 that the government is not allowed to pay them. If the cost isn’t too high, it could reopen a path for Argentina to return to international borrowing—something Scioli would likely have also done.

A liberalization of the exchange rate that got rid of the black market could be a big step forward. But much depends on how it is done: If it causes inflation to spike and the government does nothing to protect poor and working people, they could lose a lot.

Macri may also take measures to bring down inflation, which is something that needs to be done, but he’s likely to do so by shrinking the economy. He wants to reduce the central government budget deficit, which will grow as a percentage of GDP with austerity. Given his ideology, there is serious risk of a downward spiral of austerity and recession, as the country suffered from 1998 to 2001. If there is inflation from the devaluation, this could make matters worse.

In his campaign statements, Macri made it clear that he is against a government role in promoting industry, so the country’s economic development is likely to suffer as a result. He has proposed tax cuts for upper-income groups. That suggests that budget cuts are in the offing, since Macri has pledged to reduce the government budget deficit. The majority of Argentines are likely to suffer from such an economic transition.

But Macri won’t have a working majority in Congress, so it’s unclear how much he can do. Immediately, he has demonstrated his overwhelming loyalty to the United States government, which had been previously made clear in confidential U.S. embassy cables published by WikiLeaks. One of his very first statements after being elected was to denounce Venezuela and threaten to have the country suspended from the Mercosur trading bloc of South American nations. The issue wasn’t of pressing concern to Argentine voters, so it may very well be related to a U.S.-led international campaign to delegitimize Venezuela’s government and the elections in the run up to its Dec. 6 elections.

In joining the effort against Venezuela, Macri showed a willingness to take steps that no other South American president would do. In the past decade, South American presidents have repeatedly joined together to defend democracy in the region when it was under attack—with Washington on the other side—not only in Venezuela in 2014, 2013, and 2002, but in Bolivia (2008), Honduras (2009), Ecuador (2010), and Paraguay (2012). Macri runs a serious risk of damaging relations in the Western Hemisphere if he continues down this road.

Washington has maintained a policy of “rollback” and “containment” against almost all of the leftist governments that have won elections in the 21st century. So there is quite a bit of excitement among the business and foreign policy elite over the wave of setbacks among Latin America’s left, with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff facing a recession and political crisis and Venezuela’s ruling Chavista party confronting an economic crisis and possible loss of its first national election in 17 years. Articles are already sprouting up, welcoming the long-awaited demise of the Latin American left.

But reports of this demise, to paraphrase Mark Twain, are somewhat exaggerated. A more likely outcome is like what we saw in Chile, where a lackluster candidate was unable to take advantage of Socialist Party President Michelle Bachelet’s 80% approval rating and lost to a right-wing billionaire in 2010. He lasted four years, and then the country went back to Bachelet.

Argentina and the surrounding region have changed too much over the past 15 years to return to the neoliberal, neocolonial past. The Washington foreign policy establishment may not understand this, but Macri’s handlers did. That’s why they took the trouble to package him as something very different from what he is.

20. ARGENTINA’S NEXT LEADER TO END AID FOR VENEZUELA (Orlando Sentinel)
By Andres D’Alessandro and Chris Kraul
24 November 2015

BUENOS AIRES — Sweeping changes lie ahead for Argentina’s economy and foreign policy, including an end to protectionism and unquestioned support for the leftist government in Venezuela, President-elect Mauricio Macri told reporters Monday.

Macri spoke in Buenos Aires at his first news conference after winning Sunday’s runoff election against Daniel Scioli.

The victory marks the end of 12 years of Kirchnerismo, the populist left-leaning politics of outgoing President Cristina Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.

Macri said he will implement spending cuts and a slate of free-market policies that will reverse the controls on the economy instituted by Fernandez.

Her populist programs sought to keep a lid on domestic prices by shutting off access to foreign markets for Argentine producers of staples such as beef, corn and wheat.

But critics say such controls distorted the economy, stunted exports and scared away foreign investors.

Addressing a primary voter concern, Macri said he will declare a state of emergency against the “unpardonable” rise in violent crime across Argentina spurred by an increase in drug use and trafficking. Policing techniques that he said brought crime down in the capital, where he has served as mayor since 2007, will be instituted.

“It’s a pressing need that we advance professionalism of the nation’s security forces, just as we accomplished it here in the metropolitan force,” Macri said.

Although Macri promised to rein in government spending that will produce a 7 percent fiscal deficit this year, he has also vowed to retain her expanded social programs that include education subsidies, pensions and senior citizen care.

The 56-year-old former soccer club president beat Scioli, the governor of Buenos Aires state, by 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent, with a relatively high turnout of 82 percent.

Macri will meet with Fernandez on Tuesday to begin the transition before taking office Dec. 10.

The incoming president faces serious challenges implementing his proposals as his coalition of parties called Change controls only a minority of seats in both houses of Congress.

Macri served notice that Argentina’s close relationship with the leftist government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro may be coming to an end. He voiced support for opposition politicians, including former Caracas borough Mayor Leopoldo Lopez, jailed since 2014 on what critics maintain are trumped-up charges.

He said he would also propose that Mercosur, the trade bloc of South American nations, suspend Venezuela for its “undemocratic” actions against opposition politicians.

Argentina’s confusing currency policy is also coming to an end, with Macri promising a “single exchange rate.” The government currently enforces an official exchange rate between the peso and dollar that is below the unofficial black market rate. Macri has called the policy, intended to contain inflation, “an error.”

Many Argentine farmers who opposed Fernandez’s restrictions on their access to foreign markets applauded Macri’s election. They hope it will usher in a period of dialogue with farmers and better access to international markets.

Macri also said he would nullify a memorandum of understanding that Fernandez signed with Iranian officials in which she promised to try to lift an Interpol arrest order for 10 Iranians wanted in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires that killed 85.

A civil engineer by profession, the president-elect hails from the city of Tandil in Buenos Aires state and is the son of one the country’s richest men, Franco Macri, a construction magnate.

21. CHANGE IN ARGENTINA, BUT IT WON’T BE EASY (American Thinker)
By Silvio Canto, Jr.
November 24, 2015

Argentina made an important right turn on Sunday. Mauricio Macri, the opposition candidate, won Sunday’s election. He is not perfect, but he offers a more realistic option than the misguided populist policies of the incumbent party.

At the same time, argentinos longing for change will have to be patient, because Mr. Macri is inheriting a mess of huge proportions, as we read in Bloomberg:

Neither candidate has addressed the elephant in the room: the reforms needed to reduce inflation, fix a fiscal deficit of 7.2 percent of gross domestic product – the largest in over 30 years – and lure back investment dollars which have stayed away due to currency controls, a lack of regulatory predictability and a decade-long dispute with holdouts from the 2001 default.

Macri’s victory is also a huge defeat for “the Kirchner way,” the populist philosophy that guided Argentina for a decade. John Fund has a good analysis about this point:

Argentina’s election on Sunday represented the starkest choice the country has faced since the authoritarian era of Juan and Evita Peron began in the 1940s.

The seven-point victory of center-right candidate Mauricio Macri may herald a real shift towards more sensible economics and less anti-U.S. policies in Latin America.

Defeated Peronist candidate Daniel Scioli was a hand-picked defender of the interventionist economics of his party’s retiring President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner.

In a recent TV interview, Scioli summed up the differences between him and Macri simply: “I defend the role of the state and he defends the role of the market.” He accused Macri, a leading businessman and mayor of Buenos Aires, of representing policies of “savage capitalism” that would devastate the poor.

Argentina’s voters have often fallen for such rhetoric, but not this year.

The record of Kirchner and her Peronist party was a disaster and not easily ignored.

It won’t be easy but Mr. Macri is a better option. He has a better chance of attracting the kind of foreign investment that the country needs to create jobs and help the struggling middle class.

Good luck to Mr. Macri.

22. A CHANGE OF LEADERSHIP IN ARGENTINA (The New American )
Written by Charles Scaliger
November 24, 2015

Weary of years of corruption, repression, and economic malaise under hard-Left president Cristina Fernández, Argentines have elected conservative Mauricio Macri (shown), businessman, two-term former mayor of Buenos Aires, and sometime owner of one of Argentina’s two most popular soccer clubs, Boca Juniors.

The Argentine economy has been reeling from the effects of a default on government debt — Argentina’s second in the last 15 years — and from repressive currency controls imposed by the dictatorially-inclined Fernández. With inflation running over 20 percent and roughly one fifth of the entire government budget allocated to subsidies, Argentina will have to take tough medicine to remedy one of the most intractable economic crises in history.

Macri is only Argentina’s third president since 1983 not to have belonged to the country’s Peronist party. For generations, Argentina has been addicted to welfare-state programs and the massive public debts that they unavoidably entail, making this beautiful and formerly wealthy South American nation a poster child for political instability and chronic inflation. When this author was living in Argentina in the late 1970s, inflation was running at 100 percent or more.

Argentines did not save money; instead, they purchased real estate, foreign currencies, precious metals, and any other assets that retained value.

In the early 1980s, the military junta fell after the failed invasion of the Falkland Islands, and Argentina restored popularly-elected government.

But old habits die hard. Over the ensuing three decades, Argentina has not relinquished her embrace of socialism, causing debts to spiral higher and higher and inflation to continue taking its toll on what was once one of the world’s largest economies.

In December 2001, after an acute depression of almost four years, Argentina finally defaulted on its massive foreign debt. At the time, the default represented about one seventh of all debt owed by the developing world.

In the years since, the combative leftist Argentine presidents Nestor Kirchner and his widow, Cristina Fernández, managed to bluff their way (temporarily) out of the debt crisis by negotiating settlements with some of their creditors and rebuffing the others. For a few years, Argentina appeared to be on the mend.

But Argentina’s socialist policies caused new debts to pile up. Cristina Fernández, instead of proposing spending cuts and downsizing the country’s gargantuan public sector, placed all the blame for the country’s misfortunes on wicked “vulture” capitalists overseas. The xenophobic rhetoric played well — for a while. But eventually, Argentina’s economy worsened to the point that Argentines were again hiding their assets in foreign accounts and carrying out transactions in U.S. dollars. The desperate response of the Fernández government was to impose strict currency controls, which forbade citizens from acquiring dollars or taking other actions to avoid using Argentine pesos — and created a huge black market in U.S. dollars.

After several years of currency controls and deepening economic malaise that included a second default last summer, Argentines appear to be finally fed up. Having defeated Daniel Scioli, Fernandez’s handpicked successor, Macri appears to have broad public support for a new economic direction that may involve lifting of currency controls and a return to the bargaining table with foreign creditors so as to once again open global credit markets.

The true state of Argentina’s economy is probably much worse than advertised, since the Fernández administration is widely believed to have manipulated economic data to conceal inconvenient truths. Cristina Fernández, a hardline doctrinaire socialist (and friend of Hillary Clinton) made herself unpopular both at home and abroad for her abrasive, histrionic style of leadership, blaming all of her and Argentina’s woes on foreigners and greedy financial capitalists.

Mauricio Macri’s honeymoon with the Argentine public and with lawmakers is likely to be short-lived, as Argentines discover the price to be paid for so many years of public profligacy. Whether he can succeed where previous would-be reformers, such as Raúl Alfonsín and Fernando de la Rúa, failed, remains to be seen. It is worth noting that neither Alfonsín nor de la Rúa finished their respective terms in office, with Alfonsín resigning six months early with hyperinflation consuming the economy and de la Rúa fleeing by helicopter from the presidential residence as angry mobs raged and rioted outside. The reforms being contemplated by Macri and his allies are sure to cause a little “short-term pain for long-term gain,” according to Edward Glossop, market analyst with Capital Economics, but will lead to more prosperity after 2017.

The question is whether Argentines, accustomed for generations to short-term socialist panaceas, will have the patience to wait that long.

23. ARGENTINA’S NEXT PRESIDENT, MAURICIO MACRI, FACES BIG CHALLENGES IN FIXING ECONOMY (Fox News)
Nov 24, 2015

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Argentine President-elect Mauricio Macri on Monday prepared to confront myriad problems in Latin America’s third largest economy, including soaring prices and high government spending that are a legacy of outgoing President Cristina Fernández.

Macri, fresh off his historic election win late Sunday, began laying out how he would achieve some of the promises that helped him put an end to 12 years of “Kirchnerismo,” a movement aligned with the poor led by Fernández and her late husband and predecessor, Néstor Kirchner.

Macri, the outgoing mayor of Buenos Aires who will assume the presidency Dec. 10, said a key task is just spelling out the true nature of problems such as 30 percent inflation and government spending that many private economists warn is not sustainable.

“Argentina today doesn’t have credible information on the economy,” said Macri, criticizing the Fernández administration for widely discredited statistics on everything from inflation to poverty rates. “We need to know the real state of public accounts.”

Macri said that instead of a single economy minister, he would build a cabinet with six ministers assigned to specific areas of the economy.

Such a structure is in line with Macri’s technocratic approach, which emphasizes decisions based on data analysis and efficiency over style. It also cuts a sharp contrast with Economic Minister Axel Kicillof, a top official in the Fernández administration who wielded enormous power over key policies, such as the decision not to negotiate with a group of creditors in the U.S. that took Argentina to court in New York and won.

Macri reiterated his promise to lift unpopular restrictions on buying U.S. dollars and thus eliminate a booming black market for foreign currencies that creates distortions in the economy. He said the restrictions were an error that impeded growth, but did not provide details on his next steps to address the system.

Lifting restrictions would likely lead to a sharp devaluation of the Argentine peso, which officially trades at 9.5 to the U.S. dollar but on the black market is around 16 pesos.

With foreign reserves around $26 billion, low for such a large economy, Macri’s administration would need a quick infusion of dollars to keep the government afloat and meet the demand of Argentines looking to trade their pesos.

That could come from many different international economic bodies, but ultimately would require some fast reforms to signal that structural changes to the economy are forthcoming.

Macri will also likely encounter fierce resistance in Congress, where he doesn’t have majorities in either chamber. The makeup of Congress, filled with many Fernández loyalists including her son, is particularly important for the long-standing debt spat with a group of creditors in the U.S.

By law, Congress has to approve any measures regarding the country’s debt. The Fernández administration refused to negotiate despite repeated rulings by a U.S. federal court judge against Argentina, a stance that ultimately kept the South American nation from accessing international credit markets.

The close finish in Sunday’s historic runoff — Macri got 51.4 percent of the vote compared to 48.6 percent for Scioli — will embolden ruling party stalwarts to question his moves.

“It was practically a tie,” said Fernández’s Cabinet chief Aníbal Fernández, adding that the ruling party “will be preparing to return to power.”

Macri’s own background and the bruising campaign could feed into Argentina’s political polarization after more than a decade of left-leaning government.

He hails from one of the country’s most prominent families and rose to fame as president of the popular Boca Juniors soccer club.

Ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli frequently attacked Macri, saying he would subject this nation of 41 million people to the market-driven policies of the 1990s, a period of deregulation that many Argentines believe set the stage for the financial meltdown of 2001-2002.

Despite the challenges, Macri’s win signals a clear end to the era of Fernández and her late husband. During their years in office, the power couple gained both popularity and sharp criticism by spending heavily on programs for the poor, raising tariffs to protect local economies and increasing government involvement in all walks of life — much of which Macri wants to roll back.

Macri has also made clear that he’ll break from some of the previous administration’s alliances, such as its close relationship with Venezuela.

On Monday, he reiterated his promise to push to expel Venezuela from the South American trade bloc known as Mercosur because of the jailing of opposition leaders. That would be a huge change for a continent where many countries, including neighbors Chile, Brazil and Bolivia, have left-leaning democratic governments that have maintained close ties with Venezuela.

As if to emphasis his commitment, during his victory celebration Sunday night, Macri took a picture with Lilian Tintori, the wife of Leopoldo López, an opposition leader in Venezuela who has been jailed since early last year.

24. ARGENTINA’S PRESIDENT-ELECT PLEDGES SWIFT SECURITY MEASURES (Insight Crime.org)
By Michael Lohmuller
Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Argentina’s newly elected president Mauricio Macri has pledged to implement tough anti-crime measures as soon as he assumes office, but he faces a tough task in reversing the country’s slide into insecurity and the spread of organized crime.

After winning a hotly contested election by 51 percent of the vote against opponent Daniel Scioli’s 49 percent on November 22, Macri announced one of his first acts after taking office on December 10 will be to declare a state of emergency against the “unpardonable” rise of violent crime, reported the Los Angeles Times.

“We have to start from the first day [in office] to take control of the territory,” Macri asserted, sending “a clear message to those [drug traffickers] who are hoping to install themselves and operate in Argentina.”

Macri added that government inaction to halt the advance of drug trafficking in Argentina under the administration of his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has been “incomprehensible and inexcusable.”

Once in office, Macri said a plan would be put in motion to “professionalize” provincial police forces. Policing techniques that Macri claims reduced crime in Buenos Aires, where he has been mayor since 2007, will be instituted across the country, according to the Los Angeles Times.

During his campaign, Macri promised to “defeat drug trafficking,” and expressed support for militarizing drug policy, including the shooting down of suspected drug planes.

InSight Crime Analysis

Reining in Argentina’s rising violence levels and growing role in the regional drug trade will be an uphill battle for Macri.

In recent years, organized crime and drug trafficking have been on the increase in Argentina, with foreign drug trafficking organizations establishing a strong presence and becoming increasingly entrenched in the country. These foreign groups use Argentine territory as a transit point for drug shipments destined for West Africa and Europe, and also help fuel a growing domestic drug market.

Of further concern — and potential frustration for Macri’s anti-crime efforts — is that the spread of drug trafficking has demonstrated signs of hollowing out Argentine state institutions via corruption, with recent cases including allegations over the complicity of government officials in cocaine production and federal judges taking bribes from drug traffickers. Such criminal allegations have even reached the upper-echelons of government, with Anibal Fernandez, Argentina’s current Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers, accused of heading a precursor chemical trafficking network.

Compounding the challenges Macri will face in enacting new security policies is that he lacks majority support in Congress, and is inheriting a deeply divided political environment. However, Macri can at least take some comfort in that Argentina’s judiciary appears to be ready to take on a more active role in supporting government attempts to dismantle criminal networks operating in the country.

25. ARGENTINA, NOW TO BE RUN BY ITS PROPRIETORS (Open Democracy)
By Guillermo A. Makin
24 November 2015

The Argentine electoral system exhibited its virtues by showing that an incumbent can be defeated, and a centre-right president has been elected. Will he repeat the right-wing’s major errors of the past?

Mauricio Macri, of the centre right party operating with the acronym PRO, for Republican Promise, is now the president elect of Argentina, after winning the runoff election as candidate for the Cambiemos (Let’s Change) political alliance, a coalition integrating the PRO, the Coalición Cívica ARI and the Unión Cívica Radical . He will be sworn in on 10th December.

In his acceptance speech, Macri said that he had learnt much whilst campaigning. He already signalled his swift learning curve when he unveiled the first statute of Perón in Buenos Aires city, the rich province Macri governed for 8 years, making a virtue of favouring the well off. He puzzled most anti-Peronists stating below Perón’s statue that “I owe a lot to Perón” and that none of the recent social reforms will be rolled back. If this is the case, the defunct and wily old general will have chalked up an unexpected victory, now that even anti-Peronists seem to favour the Peronist policies.

It will be a new form of hegemony. Anti-Peronists, if we go by Macri’s latest statements, appear to have been converted. Whatever is the case, by signalling this volte-face Macri has delivered a hostage to fortune, allowing the 48% that did not vote for him to think he has broken his promises if he backtracks.

On the positive side, the Argentine electoral system, long known to be fraud proof, exhibited its virtues by showing that an incumbent can be defeated and that the results are known speedily. By midnight, 60% of the polling centres had sent in results verified by representatives of all parties. The most momentous news item is that, for the first time since electoral reform introduced universal male suffrage in 1912, the right wing has shown its is able to win an election.

Torcuato Di Tella, in a famous article in Desarrollo Económico, one of the best social sciences journals published in Argentina, argued in 1965, whilst Peronism was banned, that coups resulted from the inability of the establishment to win elections. Likewise, in 1977 Alain Rouquié, a French political scientist, writing about the military, since the 1980’s no longer a relevant political actor, said that coups were “the revenge of the defeated by universal suffrage.” With PRO’s electoral success, narrow though it may be by some 3%, the Argentine political game sheds one of its features: the establishment is no longer unable to win elections. As from the 10 December Argentina is under new management: the country will be run by its proprietors

Governability and the economy

Now PRO and its allies will have to show that they know how to govern. If again they run up the national debt, currently at 45% of GDP, of which only 7% is in foreign currency, Argentines will remember the 2001-2003 debacle. At the time the default and depression resulted from the debt ran up by politicians and economists praised by Washington and financial circles in the nineties. The debt, then 141% of GDP, caused the default. It could be neither serviced nor paid.

Joseph Stiglitz persuasively argues that, if debt is acquired to improve infrastructure and make exports competitive, it is not a bad thing. The trouble is that Argentina, since the 1820’s, has a nasty penchant for relying on the debt to cover ordinary state expenditure, with only occasional attention to infrastructure. It is now for Cambiemos to show it does not follow the same road to failure, pursued by previous right-wing governments.

The Argentine portfolio held abroad amounts to a humongous U$S 440 billion, 81% of GDP. It is high time Argentina came up with financial instruments designed to provide a higher return than the dollar. Brazil has long been doing this. Argentina used this approach after 2003, but later dropped them and only partly reinstated them in the run up to the election. After all, the dollar also fluctuates. Who can tell what will its standing be with eternal deficits, coupled with never ending wars against Islamic enemies, a strategy that, along with US pro-Israeli policy, acts as a recruiting sergeant of outraged Islamic extremists?

Cristina Kirchner’s errors

As to the causes of Macri’s victory, in a country where Peronists are used to winning elections –the only exception was in 1983, when the Radical party under Raúl Alfonsín–, the best summary is that the Kirchner three 4-year periods in office were, on the whole, praiseworthy in terms of economic growth, low unemployment, paying off the debt and lowering of the level of poverty. However, the list of errors makes sorry reading:

On the first place, the most promising political reform, forcing all parties to hold primaries was spoilt by Mrs Kirchner wading in, imposing the election of Daniel Scioli, the lacklustre governor of Buenos Aires, despite too many Peronists doubting his credentials. Secondly, Mrs Kirchner’s constant speechifying tired the middle class. And finally, an array of economic policy mistakes that include exchange controls unworkable with 21 Century IT technology; scandalously high subsidies on electricity and gas for the well off; dropping the policy of twin surpluses in state expenditure (4% of GDP between 2003 and 2007) and trade, some U$S 10 to 15 billion pa. (currently the deficit is 7% of GDP, and exports have plunged due to exchange rate controls); and finally ignoring that the un-integrated nature of Argentine industry (requiring hefty imports) something that was known since the 1970’s. This feature meant that, when domestic economic activity expanded, it resulted in foreign exchange scarcities.

These mistakes caused the electorate to cease to support the kirchenist project. It has made it crystal clear that praiseworthy policies, if not backed by economic hard-headedness, become all too fragile.

Cristinismo

The Cristinista version of kirchenism has served those on low incomes patchily. Néstor Kirchner (2002-2007) always made sure resources were not undermined. His economics ensured that GDP growth averaged 8% pa. Mrs Kirchner has also served the independent trading and foreign policy of her husband badly. Nestor Kirchner’s version of kirchenismo was financially viable. Even taking into account counter-cyclical policies to combat the post 2008 international slump, Nestor Kirchner’s policies were steadily and inexplicably dropped. This trend became more marked as from 2007. By 2011, having won a second term with 54% of the vote, 17% points ahead of the runner up, Cristina Kirchner thought she could walk on water and harboured no criticism.

Financial errors

Dealing with the sabotage engineered by the vulture funds that, for a few dimes, bought 7% of the total of the bonds held by foreigners became more complicated by the parochialism of the kirchenist advisors. They fell into the trap and went along with the jurisdiction of US courts, a toxic policy introduced during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. European courts would have been acceptable, but the Kirchners failed to push for this.

In 2014 the vulture funds got Judge Griesa, a New York circuit judge, to grant them more favourable treatment than the terms secured by the 93% that accepted the two-tranche renegotiation in 2005 and 2010, embargoing Argentine payments to the creditors that had accepted the renegotiation. One of the financial centres offering better terms is the City of London and yet, as long as the South Atlantic dispute remains unresolved, Argentina has sought, except during the vilified nineties, to avoid financial dealings with the UK.

Macri’s likely foreign policy priorities

David Cameron, in the UK Defence review, and contrary to long standing expectation, decided to purchase aircrafts to arm the two new aircraft carriers under construction. Therefore, the window of opportunity to negotiate with the UK will soon be slammed shut again. Argentina wallows in a legalistic and declarative policy on the South Atlantic, ill-designed to profit from the crucial point made by Lord Shackleton that the Falkland Islands were neither economically nor demographically feasible, unless they integrated with Argentina.

Other foreign policy actions of president Macri are likely to include the absolute priority of relations with Brazil. Also Mercosur, which was developed strongly under President Carlos S. Menem (1989-1999) a well known right-wing Peronist. Also distancing Argentina from a misguided and increasingly erratic Venezuela is not a danger is an urgent requirement. And then the development of closer financial and political relations with China and Russia will be halted, with the emphasis on trade allowed to predominate, even though little can be expected from the USA and Europe other a regeneration of debatable conditionality and fresh attempts to submit Argentina to their priorities.

The formidable constellation of problematic issues is further complicated. It appears that the most recalcitrant right-wingers will seek to halt the 700 trials for human rights abuses during the 1976-1983 dictatorship. It is only partly promising that, in his first press conference on 23rd November, Macri gave his word that the courts would be allowed to proceed. However, the human rights movement concludes that a Macri administration will cease to encourage the trials. Macri holds that human rights are a money-making wheeze, dismissing it as “un curro” (too much work).

Pending

Lastly, judicial reform initiated by the Kirchners has been halted by the courts protecting their privileges, showing an unconstitutional tendency to actively make the law, muscling in to annul laws passed by Congress and the president.

As Christmas is upon us, the shopping list that Argentines might pen would include an overdue democratization of the governance and trade unions, and the manner in which strikes are called.

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