“We can know the past but the present is closed to us, the present will be known by historians or novelists or novelists who call themselves historians. But what is really happening today… well, that is something that is part of the general mystery of the universe.”
Jorge Luis Borges, quoted in “Borges, the essential mystery” by Willis Barnstone.
“The hunter who wants to hit the deer does not shoot directly but aims a little further ahead. The same thing happens with human life: we have to aim for the next moment to portray it.”
Jonas Mekas, quoted by Juan Forn in “I will remember for you”.
The summer of 1997 started lazy, wrapped in the transitory torpor of Convertibility. On January 25, the photographer José Luis Cabezas was assassinated. The crime put civil society on edge, provoked an unprecedented joint reaction from the media and journalists (never repeated in subsequent years). Reviewed in perspective, crime anticipated a pivotal year, crucial. The internee between President Carlos Menem and Buenos Aires Governor Eduardo Duhalde was radicalized. The Alliance (non-existent in January) would win in the mid-term elections. More blood would flow, that of the suicide of Alfredo Yabrán.
In January 1997 “nobody” knew about the future, which, reread now, makes sense. Not as the only possible but as feasible, a consequence of the neoconservative economy, politics, the internal Peronism, the limits of Menem’s power. Not even the protagonists understood, they ran after what happened. They understood, of course, the seriousness of the homicide, what it revealed, the snares for Menem. The Riojan moved heaven, earth (and his best ministers) to condition an unknown judge from Dolores who “fell” a file far superior to his strength and expertise. Duhalde caught an opportunity although he missed several entry vizcachazos. For a while he thought that the murder was tout court, a mafia message for him: “Cabezas”, the victim’s last name to threaten the governor “Cabezón”… There is no sarcasm or any nonsense in the story. The present is slippery as an eel. Or blinding, so dazzling. Often we are dazzled by minutiae, barbecue talks, Twitter clowns, or simple bullshit. The gardens that fork add up to quantities, impossible to know which ones will be the key to deciphering the present.
Of course, readers, we want to talk about summer 2022, about the uncertainties that afflict Argentines, about the three or four variables that will encrypt this year, that will be evident in December, that will be remembered in a biennium or five years… the external debt, of the pandemic, of the real economy in which millions of Argentines survive the tumbles, of the sustainability of the political system.
The neighborhood, the pandemic, this summer: The elected president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, announces his cabinet that matches his campaign and his electoral success. He gratifies his voters and those who, like this chronicler, watch him with hope through the mountains. Post-historical victory transitions know how to be happy, promising trances, the horizon seems bright.
Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva deftly builds the conditions for his return to power, a vindictive feat that seems accessible even though no game is won before the final whistle. Lula’s offensive, his strength, his coherence, promote a gratifying atmosphere, fresh air, hope.
Boric goes through an initiation trance, Lula rehearses Luna Cautiva: “I’m back again”. Argentine President Alberto Fernández is going through the rough second part of his term. To revalidate himself in 2023, he will need to change, break inertia, lead his coalition and the country. “Hinging moment”, “re-launch” are required on its lathe.
The pandemic changed the world, accentuated pre-existing inequalities. The restrictions on freedoms, even the essential ones, affect the daily life of ordinary people, they overwhelm. Uncertainty and fear are felt daily.
The Government won the controversy with the anti-vaccines that Together for Change (JpC) accompanied or led a long way. Achievements were the distribution of the vaccines, the integration with the provincial health systems. The Cambiomites and the dominant press continue to detract from the national ruling party. They lack sense and arguments.
The holiday season is successful. The revival is also noticeable in non-tourist towns and cities throughout the country, in the shopping centers of suburban towns.
At the same time, the number of contagions is impressive, remarkable to the eye with a costumbrista look. People don’t seem willing to go into seclusion again. Yes to being tested, to isolating yourself for a few days… a new success in raising awareness. With good work, in La Rosada and in Health, they trust that the infections will hit the ceiling and go down. Hopefully this will happen soon, Litto Nebbia would sing.
In La Rosada, in Olivos, in Economy they project-design or fantasize (with time it will be discerned) an intense management agenda for this quarter, with tangible results. The optimism of the will hopes that the agreement with the Fund (some that contains years without payments) will materialize before the opening of the ordinary sessions of Congress. Which are becoming more ordinary, in any sense of the word…
Well as far as possible: The meeting between Anthony Blinken and Santiago Cafiero was, the Argentine Foreign Minister commented to his president, as positive as it could be. “Politics unraveled. There is no animosity. They do not want to harm us”, he synthesized. In the presidential Fifth, with Alberto dressed in sport, perhaps he used a more colloquial expression than “harm”.
Valuable balance within the real available: the State Department does not give orders to “the chair at the IMF.” That power lives outside the walls, in the Treasury Department and in the economic establishment, which are often the same.
President Joe Biden leads a coalition as plural as the Front of All (FdT) or perhaps more: a bunch of minorities, of ideological positions. Republicans constitute a more homogeneous group: white supremacists in the social base; economic power in the supports. Biden had to “hook” to miscellaneous sectors, often divergent, his cabinet is also a mosaic. The Treasury continues, faithful to its essence, as a bastion of the right.
The day before the meeting with Cafiero, Blinken met with his Spanish counterpart. The day after he traveled to Geneva to negotiate or decompress the until today hypothetical second Cold War. Spain is a strategic ally, Russia the most threatening military power for the Yankees. It is easy to rank these priorities compared to Argentina. Knowing your own body image, that’s a wise requirement to sit with the big guy on the planet.
The agenda covered the Argentine “soft power” that AF tabulates as positive capital. The presence in the UN in the field of human rights, the positions referred to disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation.
When they got “to the bone,” the IMF, Cafiero took up the official Argentine version. “We offer the program that we can fulfill”. He broke down the positive indicators of 2021 that prove that this is the path. Requested help. “The agreement with Macri had the support of the United States, it was a political decision. The exit now must be too”
“In 2018 we were not there,” Blinken told us, the Argentine negotiators comment.
“We weren’t there either,” Cafiero rounded off a volley.
“We support the Argentine negotiation with the IMF,” said Blinken during the talk, which was collected in the laconic statement from the State Department. These pieces are not encyclopedic, nor speeches: they extreme the synthesis, they cultivate low or null effusiveness. The spokesmen of the Argentine right read it as a setback, interpret what suits them to discredit the Government, promote waves in the City, favor speculative moves. Minga of intellectual interpreters in these fights: they all defend interests, ideologies, money.
Cafiero returned with everything he could harvest, not so much. In “more political” meetings, he added a resounding argument underestimated in Argentina: if governability falters here, “contagion” in Brazil is feasible. A front that Biden hardly looks at because he has too many challenges in his first year but that could add a headache. With more than 100,000 Russian soldiers on the border with Ukraine, it becomes dangerous to be obsessed by a risk far away in space and virtual in time.
Averaging that meeting with the daily contacts between Economy Minister Martín Guzmán and the Fund’s “line”, those who think that the agreement is close, that default will be avoided, that surcharges will not be abolished but that there will be years without payments. Essential oxygen when the countdown to March progresses, the date of an unpayable fee.
To save repetition, we refer to last Sunday’s column that reviews imaginable scenarios with an agreement, without me, with a delay in the payment of the installment… even possibly with default.
Better than commenting is to do: The chronicler exchanges informally with several members of the Cabinet. They agree on the essential: the President has to embody and lead a new agenda that impacts the well-being of ordinary people. That, the speaker adds, lives in the short term, overwhelmed by unsatisfied needs, working too much for low pay, punished by inflation.
Let’s go back to a phrase from the epigraph: to hole the deer or to capture the present, one must observe a step forward. A case from this week can serve as an example. The Ministry of Education launches two essential, remedial, intelligent measures. The Program for boys and girls to recover lost ties with school, particularly secondary school. And Connect Equality, irresponsibly discontinued by the macrismo to lower public spending. The sequels, terrible in germ, were enhanced by the pandemic and distance education.
Faced with these two achievements, the Buenos Aires Minister of Education Soledad Acuña changes the axis, tries to distract: she formulates statements that self-portray her as a veneer, cunning, duranbarbista. A throng of official cadres replies… this Sunday we dribbled the temptation to reason about the official communication. Let’s go to another point. Next summer it will be possible to know how many children were re-linked, how many netbooks reached humble homes. If there are hundreds of thousands, Acuña’s provocations will be relegated like bad memories, gas in a basket. Hundreds of thousands or millions of Argentines will live better, what bingo would do if the reactivation continues, the rise in prices moderates, the pandemic is controlled. Material and spiritual progress for society, redistribution of resources, shots to the side of equity. In this scenario, it would be feasible for the government’s collective assessment to improve, which is never measured by how it analyzes the opposition but by how it affects the lives of compatriots.
The results of the negotiations with the IMF, the vicissitudes of the real economy will become clearer in weeks or months.
Numerous variables depend on foreign powers, distant, not very sensitive or pro-Argentine.
The plague depends on imponderables that are faced with hard work, tenacity and good practice.
Although greedy to make prophecies, the chronicler assumes that in the summer the milestones of the future will be demarcated, largely subordinated to the government’s ability to build a hinge in history. The return to the promises of the 2019 campaign, the fight against the concentration of wealth, power, prestige and even expectations. An overcoming agenda transcends the economic without denying it primacy. Education, it has been said, public works paying more attention to infrastructure for development, some of the bills related to production and economic development that were sent to extraordinary sessions. And, at the head, better and greater allocation of social spending.