Publish in Commentary - Wednesday, November 14, 2012
The IMF has threatened to give Argentina and President Cristina Kirchner a red card. The American Task Force Argentina has already given the Kirchner government a red card. (Collage based on Casa Rosada photo).
Protests in Buenos Aires on November 8. (Photo: jmalievi)
Argentines increase their protests against Cristina Kirchner’s regime.
BY LATINVEX EDITORS
You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Abraham Lincoln’s wise words are still valid today. Take Argentina, where the government has manipulated official data on inflation, GDP and even murder rates.
An increasing number of Argentines have had enough. Last week, hundreds of thousands marched through the streets of Buenos Aires to protest the growing insecurity, lies about inflation and plans by President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner to change the constitution so she can seek a third term.
Many also protested Kirchner’s attacks of Clarin, the largest newspaper and a frequent critic. She is threatening sanctions if it refuses to abide by a controversial anti-monopoly law, which goes into effect next month and requires Clarin to sell off several assets.
Meanwhile, union loyalists of Kirchner have repeatedly blocked the exit of the newspapers Clarín and La Nación, another leading newspaper and critic, reportedly for different reasons not related to politics. Each time, the police refuse to interfere, resulting in massive distribution problems for the two independent newspapers. The moves have been criticized by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA).
CRIME AND INSECURITY
Insecurity is now the top concern in Argentina, according to 83 percent of respondents in a recent poll by the Management and Fit. According to official data, Argentina has a murder rate of 5.5 per 100,000 inhabitants. However, a recent report by La Nacion shows that the numbers exclude a large number of “undetermined” deaths. Recategorizing them could add as much as 30 percent to current murder statistics. “That highlights the political sensitivity of violent crime in Argentina and subjective perceptions of insecurity, bringing into question the effectiveness of the authorities' crime and security policy,” IHS Global Insight said in a recent analysis. “In the highly charged current context of Argentine politics, that is likely to provoke wider skepticism over crime statistics in coming months.”
INFLATION: MAKING IT WORSE
While lying about inflation, Kirchner’s policies are also likely to keep them growing. New measures aimed at stemming the demand for dollars through currency controls may actually drive up inflation, according to Reuters.
The controls also make it difficult for Argentines to travel abroad. "It's a violation of our freedom," Pablo García, 17, told the Daily Telegraph during the protest last week.
Argentina will likely have Latin America’s highest inflation this year, according to a Latinvex analysis based on estimates from the International Monetary Fund and private-sector estimates in Argentina.
However, Kirchner is not only manipulating the data but also punishing those who seek the truth. The government now sanctions (with fines and jail) those in the private sector that publish their own calculations for inflation. As a result, independent data is now released by opposition members of the national assembly who have immunity against the sanctions.
NOT SOCCER BY ANY STANDARD
And when the IMF warns Argentina it needs to stop manipulating the macro economic data, Kirchner answers with intransigence. The IMF has given Argentina until next month to clean up its numbers or face sanctions such as expulsion from the fund. Or the equivalent of a red card in soccer, as IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said. (The American Task Force Argentina has already given Kirchner a red card over her refusal to pay the country’s debt. The debt mess has most recently led to Ghana last month confiscating naval ship Libertad at the request of NML Capital Ltd, which claims Argentina owes it $300 million on bonds in default since 2002).
“My country is not a soccer team, it is a sovereign country and as such is not going to accept a threat,” Kirchner responded during a speech at the United Nations. “This is not a soccer game.”
She is, of course, right. Soccer is generally cleaner and less prone to manipulation of the kind Kirchner specializes in.
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