Milei Chronicles (6) The Kirchner Factor

Javier Milei, The Milei Chronicles
Javier Milei, The Milei Chronicles

What is modern Peronism since 2002? ¡Que se vayan todos! & The Kirchners

Peronism is effectively two main sub-groups: a centre-right nationalist conservative social-democrat flavour (in a slight majority) competing internally with a more radical left-of-centre group who try to offer something to left-wing and younger voters. This latter faction which has recently been run by the Kirchner family is, socially at least, more progressive. Over the last two decades it has consolidated political rights for transsexuals, gay and lesbians, and effective abortion rights for women in a largely Roman Catholic state (currently overseen by an Argentine pope who is also a progressive Peronist on the left of the ‘K’ faction). Even one of Argentina’s three three communist parties is in the UP coalition to this day.

The ‘K’ factions are generally hated by their own traditional Peronists and, even more so, by the Anti-Peronist PRO. They rose to power with Nestór Kirchner (hence the ‘K’) who was president from 2003 till his death. Néstor Kirchner’s task it was to clean up after Menem and Cavallo’s disastrous 2001/2002 default, the result of his dollarisation of the economy. Menem, now dead, is yeta[1] in Argentina and Cavallo was sent to the US to preach to the converted in Harvard and NYU. Both took Argentina to the brink of financial default and beyond blowing the economy apart with five presidents in a week and 37 deaths by police in street rioting in Buenos Aires. The anger then was extreme, Argentinians calling desperately to eliminate what Milei now calls the casta. ¡Que se vayan todos! Get rid of them all!

In general terms Peronism advocates nationalist public ownership in certain sectors (which makes Peronism the bugbear of multinationals). This is not a hard and fast rule, indeed it hides some major catastrophic exceptions. Take for example the Argentine state oil company ‘YPF’. YPF was privatized (sold to Spanish Repsol) by Peronist president Carlos Saúl Menem using hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to buy votes from his own senators and deputies who were loathe to vote to do so. Menem was the poster-child of South American neoliberalism. The IMF shopped Menem around economic conferences so that he could give speeches to other nations on neoliberalism and privatisation. It is difficult to ignore Milei’s physical resemblance to Menem in the 1980’s, just look at the hairstyles and sideburns.

Even chaos on a the scale of the 2001/2002 emergency proved incapable of getting rid of the Argentine casta. Milei has channeled a similar middle class and youth anger focusing it onto Argentina’s bipolar UP and PRO. In 2023 there is nothing new in politics, the casta aren’t going anywhere (at least not yet) and one has to question whether they will resist or simply subsume LLA as well?

The anti-Peronism PRO-like coalitions in the 21st. Century have been vigorously neoliberal. Milei wants to push this toward ultra-liberal extremism with his LLA coalition. Until this election the Peronism/anti-Peronism divide has been the pseudo-democratic protagonist in Argentina’s politics.

It seems those days are over.

[1] yeta: A River Plate Spanish slang (lunfardo) term referring to a person who brings so much bad luck that it is unlucky even to say their name. Many people refer to their former race-car loving Peronist president by his first names only: “Carlos Sául” as it is now yeta to even utter the name ‘Menem’

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