Failure of the first attempt of neo-liberal restauration

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The first meaning of the Argentine primary elections, with the enormous defeat of Mauricio Macri, is the failure of the first attempt of neo-liberal restauration. After more than a decade of anti-neo-liberal governments, the right achieved its first victory in quite a while. That was in Argentina, with the victory of Mauricio Macri, with a typically neo-liberal program.


A euphoric campaign, a victory commemorated as a return to the old times of centrality of the market, from the destruction of the image of the market and from the folly of populist governments that wasted public resources with senseless distributions. The return of the harsh and inevitable budgetary adjustments, of the “realistic” readjustment of public rates, eliminating subsidies, back to reality. The page was thus turned on irresponsible governments.


This process was reproduced in Brazil, with coups, political persecution and electoral manipulation, and, adapting Kissinger’s words about Chile, aimed at “saving Latin Americans from their own folly”. Ecuador joined in; the restauration threat came to Uruguay and Bolivia. Lula, Cristina, Pepe Mujica, Evo, Rafael Correa were to be substituted by Macri, Bolsonaro, Moreno and others who promoted themselves to be added to this new list.


But things did not turn out that way. Beyond the phony surveys and the market manipulations, the victory of Alberto Fernández and Cristina Fernández surpassed any foreseeable outcome. The brutal effects of neo-liberal adjustment overwhelmingly took their toll on the Macri government. Hasty analyses, even from the progressive camp, had dared to foresee that Macrismo came to remain as the hegemonic force in the political field, as the new expression of the Argentine right. They hoped Kirchnerism would be a parenthesis in Argentine history, but that will now be the destiny of Macrism. There is already speculation as to who will head the right and what remains of Macrism, possibly the Mayor of the city of Buenos Aires, given the resounding defeat also of the Macrista governess of the province of Buenos Aires, Maria Eugenia Vidal.


For Latin America, what is the meaning of this result that has great possibilities of being even more sweeping in October? How can we project the future of the region following the results of the elections in Argentina?


Firstly, it means that the right has no other model than the neo-liberal one; that it has no capacity to reactivate economic growth, much less to redistribute income. The trajectory of the failed government of Macri echoes that of Michel Temer in Brazil, of Moreno in Ecuador and it is already being confirmed with the present Brazilian government of Bolsonaro. It is a certain route of failure for the right, that already indicates that the return of some right-wing Latin American governments will be short-lived, a parenthesis.


Secondly, the damage caused by the governments of neo-liberal restauration represents an enormous economic, political and social step backwards, that the governments that follow them will inherit, causing them great difficulties to resume an anti neo-liberal economic and social model.


Thirdly, the way to defeat these governments is to bring together all the forces that are opposed to them, taking advantage of the profoundly negative social effects of their economic policies. That is, as a broad anti-neo-liberal front that proposes to surmount the economic policies that have brought Argentina into a deep recession, widespread unemployment, the loss of a gigantic quantity of foreign currency, and a debt that deprives their policies of sovereignty. This was basically the route traced by the electoral list that has defeated the neo-liberal government of Mauricio Macri.


What consequences can these results have in the region? In the first instance, it will leave Bolsonaro isolated from his great ally, for whom he tried to undertake an electoral campaign, which probably caused further damage to Macri’s candidature.


In the second instance, the elections in Bolivia and Uruguay will be affected by the failure and the defeat of Macri, but it is also probable that in these countries and others in the region, there will be governments with distinct characteristics, antagonistic to those of Macri. The Uruguayans and Bolivians will take note of the destiny of neo-liberal restauration and how the people tend to severely castigate these governments.


The Argentine case, having been the first of the return to the right and its neo-liberal model, has also been the first to defeat this path, the first that has demonstrated the new failure of neo-liberalism in Latin America, opening the way for a new cycle of growth and redistribution of income in the region.



(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)


-Emir Sader, Brazilian Sociologist and Political Scientist, is the Coordinator of the Laboratorio de Políticas Públicas with the Universidad Estatal de Rio de Janeiro (UERJ).
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