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Beyond the Crisis, Routine?
Marcos Roitman Rosenmann,
La Jornada (left-wing), Mexico City, Mexico, Jan. 3, 2002
The idea that the crisis in Argentina is the result of a corrupt
government and the squandering of the nations wealth is
not credible. Nor can the crisis be attributed to poor administration.
If that were the case, most Latin American countries would have
entered a crisis of legitimacy and profound institutional deterioration
demonstrators protest in Buenos Aires, Jan. 15, 2002 (Photo:
The causes cannot be found in a failure to learn the laws
of supply and demand as taught in a school of economics. We
need to search elsewhere for the causes. They have political
roots. Economic clichés and interpretations will only
cloud the understanding of processes that date back to reforms
implemented in the years of military dictatorship and that have
been maintained until now by the Radical Civic Union and Justicialist
Party civilian governments.
Argentinas political crisis is a manifestation of reforms
carried out during the last three decades. For this reasonand
in contrast to previous criseswe find that social instability,
the political vacuum, and even President Fernando de la Rúas
resignation have not provoked rumors of a coup détat.
Few see a military uprising as a solution. Instead, everyone
is talking about a problem of macroeconomic adjustment and coordination.
Why is this so?
The solutions proposed for the crisis include no changes in
the dynamics of privatization and reconversion that have been
systematically implemented in recent decades. On the contrary,
the intention is to continue with the same practices. It is
thus a matter of preserving a strategic plan established under
military juntas and maintained to the present. After 30 years
of policies focused on re-establishing order, we can state confidently
that we are witnessing the clearest manifestations of those
This crisis is the result of a neo-oligarchical political project
characterized by exclusion and concentration and founded on
utilitarian economic principles. This crisis is a consequence
of the ongoing application of neo-liberal policies. What is
happening today in Argentina may happen tomorrow in Brazil,
Chile, Uruguay, or Mexico.
Nevertheless, ad hoc interpretations seek to avoid this explanation,
presenting the problem instead as a particular case of financial
mechanisms and monetary liquidity. The focus is on increasing
the confidence of foreign investors. It is a technical problem
and a matter of the countrys international image. Analysts
rush to give econometric explanations, without mentioning the
effects of the liberal policies.
President De la Rúas resignation is interpreted
and presented as the end of the crisis and the beginning of
the solution. There is no more instability, and a new historical
moment has begun. Everything will be different. In a single
day, demonstrations and protests are over, and everything has
returned to normal. Nothing has changed, but everything seems
different. Back to the routine.
A strange way to resolve a problem. The causes are left untouched;
the problems at the root of the situation are not attacked.
But the discourse we hear refers to putting an end to whats
wrong in the country. Theres a promise to maintain parity
between the dollar and the pesoand now with the argentino
[a proposed, nonconvertible currency]. And the current moment
is presented as the perfect one for regenerating the political
Everyone appears to be struggling together to save Argentina
from the worst crisis in its history. But few describe this
crisisand seek the roots of this crisisin the policies
carried out during the past 30 years. Its better to use
a scapegoat, and not exactly Carlos Saúl Menem [president
from 1989 to 1999]. De la Rúa is the person designated
for this role.
According to the criteria of political engineering, his resignation
is conceived as an act of prudence to avoid worse problems.
There is no political responsibility, just a bad administration.
Members of his government resign with him, and, in this way,
the failure is shared. De la Rúas resignation is
a display of political cowardice. The decision is consonant
with the premise of not endangering major foreign investment
and international capital, upon which an illusion of a powerful
Argentina has been built.
For other countries in the region, Argentina was considered
a model in implementing reforms. Privatization, dropping of
trade and financial barriers, and the deregulation of the labor
market are the pillars upon which a vigorous Argentina has been
presented. Now that the illusion has been shattered, responsibility
falls on a few incompetent and incapable individuals. No one
makes the link between this crisis and neo-liberal policies.
All the changes carried out to modernize and adapt structures
to the requirements of a new world order must remain intact.
It is important to maintain the sense of a hopeful future. A
curtain of smoke must be draped to conceal the the breakdown
of the public sphere, to avoid questions about the neo-oligarchization
The victims of these policies are not given any place in this
new order. Civil disobedience and violence will intensify, and
totalitarian regimes will be imposed to maintain governability.
In Argentina we are seeing the first manifestations of this
process. The crisis threatens the entire American continent.
We are witnessing the collapse of the neo-liberal myth of order
and progress. Perhaps we should insist that this be acknowledged.
It is a necessary part of the struggle for democracy.