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11/17 roundup: Fernández’s first thoughts on Biden

"Can't be worse than Trump", president said in long political interview

By | [email protected] | November 17, 2020 9:03am

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After being the first Latin American leader to congratulate Joe Biden for beating Donald Trump in the US presidential election, Alberto Fernández went one step further yesterday and detailed his thoughts on how Biden’s presidency could compare to that of the outgoing North American leader, who drew heavy verbal fire from the Argentine head of state.

-In an interview with Puebla Group leader Marco Enríquez-Ominami, Fernández argued that he didn’t “know what Biden’s policy towards Latin America will end up being”, but that he was sure that it would be “better than Trump’s”.

“Trump was heavily interventionist towards Latin America. He used the OAS to nullify the elections that Evo Morales legitimately won in Bolivia. He meddled with the IADB by putting an ally of his, (Mauricio) Claver-Carone, who had previously confessed that the US lobbied the IMF to loan Argentina USD 50 billion in order to save Mauricio Macri from a presidential election defeat, and that money ultimately only ended up facilitating capital flight. So I think it’s hard to have a worse relationship between Latin America and the US than during the Trump years.”

Fernández also hoped for a different approach to the Venezuelan conflict in the new era, taking aim at National Assembly head Juan Guaidó, who is recognized by the US, Europe and even many Latin American neighbors as the legitimate president of the country. “I am optimistic about seeing better results with Biden, putting an end to the idea of military interventions in Venezuela and helping the country’s sides finally reconcile, instead of propping up alternative presidents that merely travel around the world. Biden has a great chance to revert all of this and create a new kind of relationship with the region.”

-The House of Representatives will discuss today the creation of a new, one-time wealth tax, looking to mitigate the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic through an exceptional contribution by those owning more than ARS 200 million in assets, a figure which could still rise during the negotiations to approve it. Máximo Kirchner, the main force behind the project, headed talks with centrist and provincial parties to secure a victory, which could be tighter in the House today than in the Senate later, where Peronism holds a majority of its own and is led by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

-Fernández de Kirchner’s Senate, however, has been a source of rumblings again, after the Peronist caucus signed a letter addressing IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, calling the Stand By Agreement that the Fund signed in 2018 with Mauricio Macri “failed”, and questioning the violation of the IMF’s Article VI, which states that loans should not be used to facilitate capital flight from a country during balance of payment crises. The letter also mentioned Claver-Carone’s words about Trump’s administration trying to help Macri against Peronism. Some saw this as Fernández de Kirchner distancing herself from Economy Minister Martín Guzmán’s negotiations with the IMF, which might came with a series of austerity measures, but President Fernández came out yesterday in support of the letter’s arguments.

-Speaking of austerity, the government is starting to work on a scheme to raise tariffs on electricity and natural gas for households, which have been frozen for almost two years now, while generation costs have continued to rise due to inflation, risking problems in the quality of service. According to Ámbito Financiero, the hikes won’t affect the poorest, but the most affluent sectors of the population might see rises of up to 70 percent.