Salta Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey was in Spain last week and had the time to chat with journalists from El País, sharing some analysis of the political and economic situation of Argentina. He was in Europe to take part in the Technological Innovation and Circular Economy Summit, notably meeting former president of the United States, Barack Obama.
Bashing and defending Macri at the same time, Urtubey talked about both Argentina’s current crisis and his personal ambitions.
Urtubey began by denying any chances that the current government will be forced out of the Casa Rosada after the IMF stand-by agreement, as was the case in 2001. “It’s possible that a part of Peronism wants to overthrow Mauricio Macri,” he commented, adding however that “we’re committed to seeing Macri finish his mandate.”
On the strategy of his own party, and especially Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s, he stated: “The problem is that the government artificially built a fortress of the most radicalized sector around [her]. It works well for elections, but generates a huge problem. This group doesn’t have the force to overturn Macri, nor return to power.”
Consulted on the US $50 billion deal with the IMF, Urtubey discussed the impact it had on the population. “Our history with the IMF is traumatic, there is a kind of cultural heritage when the IMF appears that frightens us. Its arrival is the expression of the Argentine leadership’s failure, as we can’t agree between us on public policies without a foreign investment.
“Argentina has abused the currency policy as its unique instrument. If we did always the same thing, unsuccessfully, why should it improve this time?” he continued. “With interest rates of 50 percent, it is impossible to have productive investment.”
Although the times aren’t great, the governor believes Argentina is not at the same point that in 2001. “In the last 61 years, only 5 of them were years without fiscal deficit. The challenge is to control our accounts. I am an optimist, I think Argentina will exit this crisis, because we are a country which acknowledges the necessity of resolving the structural problems that we always endure while moving forward.”
“There is a growing unhappiness,” he continued. Stating that in Argentina, the social climate was “complicated,” he thinks that the possibility of a disaster is distant: “A large majority feels like we lost an opportunity, and are disappointed because the changes promised did not happen. However, from here to a terminal crisis… I don’t see it happening. Macri will finish his mandate, I don’t see it ending like it did in 2001.”
Finally, he talked about the upcoming 2019 presidential elections: “We have to believe in a superior alternative, without Cristina Kirchner, which will bridge this dichotomy between Macri and Cristina, which is stalling Argentina’s growth. There, we would just have to go with the most competent candidate.”
Is it a way to establish himself as the man of the situation? Urtubey avoided a straight answer. “It could be me or someone else, but we can’t build a space on the basis of one single person. We already did that and it did not end well for us. In Argentine politics, in the institutions, even in football, we need to get out of personalism,” he said, before concluding “the country needs a modern and reasonable peronismo.”