Any hint of friendship, or at least of a cordial dialogue, between President Mauricio Macri and Renewal Front (FR) Sergio Massa disappeared last week after the latter spearheaded the opposition’s income tax bill that beat the proposal Macri’s administration put forward, resulting in their last — and perhaps most important to date — political defeat of the year.
After the President called him an “impostor” on Thursday, Massa answered yesterday with an open letter in which he called on Macri to “reflect,” accused him of having “stopped the dialogue” between their parties and not respecting the institutions. In contrast with the government’s incendiary rhetoric when addressing Massa’s actions, Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña also said he is the “least trustworthy person in Argentine politics — the FR leader’s language was measured and formal.
“I decided to send you this letter and make it public as a way of reflecting together about the recent events,” the message begins.
However, underneath the political correctness, Massa hit where it hurts the Macri administration’s the most: its self-promoted image of being open to dialogue and reaching consensus.
“It’s important for the future of our country that we all learn to respect the institutions and the division of powers.” “This dynamic of cutting [the dialogue] last Tuesday, when you ordered your deputies to not discuss the possibility of a consensual project about reducing the income tax for workers,” reads a part of the letter.
The intention, it seems, is get the public eye to consider the roles have swapped. Make it look like it’s the opposition — i.e Massa — the one capable of analyzing the variables and work towards reaching a decision that satisfies all parties, while the government won’t accept opposed visions and shuts down the door to dialogue. Much like the former administration. “It turns out that we are the ones who are zen,” a FR deputy jokingly told La Nación after the letter was published.
At least since the project made it through the Lower House last Tuesday, the managed to make those be the visuals. The anger reached a point that the government suspended the extraordinary congressional sessions they themselves had called for.
In another passage of the letter Massa committed to help the Macri administration govern — otherwise extremely complicated due to the fact that the government doesn’t hold a majority of its own in Congress — but by the way things look like, they don’t intend to take up on the offer at the the moment, or any moment in the foreseeable future. “We do not have anything else to say to you,” seems to be the message.
The Senate will define whether to turn the bill into a law between today and tomorrow. The bill is expected to receive a wide support. If this is effectively the case, what remains to be seen is how the government will proceed: if it will resort to the veto and take the political hit that goes with it or figure out how to deal with the massive, unexpected fiscal hole that would fall into its lap.
What we do know is that this clash has become the turning point in the relationship between the government and this sector of the opposition. While the Victory Front has always made it clear that it building consensus between themselves and Cambiemos would be next to impossible, this is a major rupturing point for those in Massa’s camp against the hope of finding common ground with the Macri administration. As next year’s key congressional elections loom, one can only assume that this will become a recurring motif within the increasingly polarized political theatrics taking place in Argentina’s legislative chambers.