Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.
Headline: Election tests Macri’s promise to make Argentina ‘normal’ again
Sub-headline: Legislative poll will be a referendum on the reformist president
You know your reading the Financial Times by the opening paragraphs in praise of an oligarch:
Few have navigated Argentina’s erratic economy as shrewdly as Eduardo Eurnekian. Despite half a century of recurring financial crises, the 84-year-old billionaire has come out on top; he now controls Aeropuertos Argentina 2000, one of the world’s largest private airport operators.
But note that this oligarch is switching economic tracks:
Sensing the shift, Mr Eurnekian is moving into a business that would have been almost unthinkable only a few years ago in a country well known for cronyism, debt defaults and high — mobile banking.
Mr. Eurnekian is now going to become just another speculator, gambler instead of managing private airports. All this presented by Benedict Mander as ‘proof’ that Mr. Eurnekian is prescient about Argentina’s future, about to be re-made by the ‘Reforms’ of Macri, or just call it an attempt to Neo-Liberalize that economy. Yet the phenomenon of ‘Globalisation‘ is the motive of this oligarch to find a new profit stream.
“There is no way we are going back to the past,” says Mr Eurnekian, who is backing Wanap, Argentina’s first online-only bank. “Globalisation will either absorb us, or it will not. There is no halfway house.”
The reader must cultivate patience for we are in the journalistic territory of ‘The Big Read’, and we have just begun the guided tour !
The emancipation of Argentine politics/economics from its ‘shadow of its Populist Past’ is the rhetorical frame of this propaganda intervention. Call it the master narrative of Mander’s essay.
Why should or could the reader of Mander’s exercise in self-serving political prescience, garnished with arresting graphs, pictures, a pod cast and an insert called ‘Regional Trends’, look elsewhere for news about the de Kirchner years? Here is a Guardian opinion piece written by Mark Weisbrot of October 22, 2011.
Headline: Cristina Kirchner and Argentina’s good fortune
Sub-headline: Under the Kirchner administrations, Argentina has achieved the fastest growth in the west – after defaulting. Listening, Europe?
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is expected to coast to re-election as president of Argentina on Sunday, despite having faced hostility from the media for most of her presidency, and from many of the most powerful economic interests in the country. So it seems a good time to ask why this might happen.
Yes, it’s the economy. Since Argentina defaulted on $95bn of international debt nine years ago and blew off the International Monetary Fund, the economy has done remarkably well. For the years 2002-2011, using the IMF’s projections for the end of this year, Argentina has chalked up real GDP growth of about 94%. This is the fastest economic growth in the western hemisphere – about twice that of Brazil, for example, which has also improved enormously over past performance. Since President Fernandez or her late husband Nestor Kirchner, who preceded her as president, were running the country for eight of these nine years, it shouldn’t be surprising that voters will reward her with another term.
The benefits of growth don’t always trickle down, but in this case, the Argentine government has made sure that many did. Poverty and extreme poverty have been reduced by about two thirds since their peak in 2002, and employment has increased to record levels. Social spending by the government has nearly tripled in real terms. In 2009, the government implemented a cash transfer program for children that now reaches the households of more than 3.5 million children. It is probably the largest such program, relative to national income, in Latin America.
Inequality has also been considerably reduced in Argentina during this remarkable expansion. This is in contrast to most other fast-growing economies in the world (and some of the slower-growing ones like the United States), where inequality has increased over the past decade. In 2001, Argentines in the 95th percentile of the income distribution had 32 times the income of those in the 5th percentile. By last year, that ratio had fallen by nearly half, to a multiple of 17.
I can already imagine the comments that I will get for this piece: people will shout about Argentina’s inflation rate, which, according to some private estimates, is running between 20 and 25% at present. Yes, that is too high, and will likely be brought down in the months and years ahead (it was much lower through most of the past nine years). But it is important to remember that it is real income (adjusted for inflation) and employment, as well as the distribution of income, that determine people’s living standards. If inflation is high but your income is rising faster than inflation, you are better-off than if inflation is much lower and your income does not keep up with inflation – or if you don’t have a job at all.
Now this was in 2011, so what might this six year old opinion piece offer to the reader of the august Financial Times ? Had the Argentine economy collapsed in the intervening years? Or were the voters tired of de Kirchner ? She is running for Senator in the coming election of October 22, 2017:
Peronist factions are divided in two main groups; the Front for Victory, led by the former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, leads the parliamentary opposition to Macri’s administration. Another group is composed of politicians from the Justicialist Party and the Renewal Front.
Macri did pay Paul Singer over a one billion dollar ransom for re-admittance to the Neo-Liberal family of Nations. But the answer is here:
“It took a year and a half for investors and companies to get comfortable with the idea of investing in Argentina [again], but now I’m being contacted several times a day,” says Noah Mamet, former US ambassador in Buenos Aires who is now in the private sector.
It seems that the only real qualification for Mamet’s appointment to the Ambassadorship to Argentina was that he raised six figures sums for President Obama in 2012:
Since his appointment as U.S. ambassador to Argentina, Mamet has been criticized for being part of a group of nominated “ambassadors that raised six-figure sums” for President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, including by websites such as The Washington Examiner and The Huffington Post.
In December 2013, BuzzFeed reported that Mamet’s nomination as ambassador to Argentina was “met with surprise, and in some cases anger, by his peers in the donor class. Democratic Party donors complain privately that Mamet unfairly leveraged his clients’ work for his own political gain and benefited from a close personal relationship with President Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina.” A group of retired United States Foreign Service officers have since called for an end to the practice of appointing political contributors and supporters as ambassadors. Mamet has also been criticized for lack of “major diplomatic experience” and not visiting Argentina prior to his nomination.
In 2014, fifteen former presidents of the State Department Employees Union (AFSA) made an official request to reject Mamet’s nomination to ambassadorship, which also included George Tsunis (for Norway) and Colleen Bell (for Hungary), because “they showed limited knowledge of the countries to which they’d been nominated” at their Senate committee hearings.
AFSA issued a letter to the U.S. State Department urging it to “oppose granting of Senate consent to these three candidates.” The letter was the first of its kind, which set a new historical precedent to ambassadorial designations in the U.S.
Mr. Mamet is President & Founder at Noah Mamet & Associates LLC. Greater Los Angeles Area-Public Relations and Communications.