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Inicio arrow Análisis arrow Argentina arrow Argentine Political Outlook (Ene-01-20)

Argentine Political Outlook (Ene-01-20) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Ene-01-20, by Rosendo Fraga

1. Alberto Fernández won his first political and parliamentary victory, with the final approval of the emergency bills in just three days in both Houses. In the Lower House, he had the support of the justicialist block (120 members), the Lavagna's block (11) of Federalismo y Desarrollo (8) and a dozen of the legislators who respond to the provinces governed by Radicalism (Mendoza, Jujuy and Corrientes). But on the night of Tuesday, Dec 17, the ruling party perceived that it had made a political mistake from a certain unjustifiable point: 26 members of its 110 were lacking. They had assumed as officials of the Executive. A dozen had already resigned, so they could not leave office and return to the seats. For its part, that night, Cambiemos anticipated that it would not give quorum. This error was a consequence of Máximo's inexperience as President of the Lower House block -as Monzó says- in his debut as President of the Lower House. But the problem was quickly solved. In the Senate - where Frente de Todos has a majority of 42 out of 72 - the process was simpler and without surprises. It was thus clear that the ruling party has a majority in both Houses - negotiating in the Lower House and having a large majority at the Senate. 

2. In political terms, Fernández has obtained Congressional powers for six months. It seems somewhat threatening because of the power concentration it implies, but so far in the 21st century, Argentina has spent 80% of the time under this type of emergency for the benefit of the Executive. Before that, Menem enacted a piece of legislation in 1989, which gave him broad powers, to carry out, among other actions, privatizations. At the end of the same year, the court was expanded from 5 to 9 members, having the majority, which it also had in both houses of Congress as of December, when the legislators who had been elected in May were sworn in. At the end of 2001, De la Rúa achieved a delegation of powers of Congress, which was not enough to contain the economic crisis. Duhalde extended these powers that were renewed by Congress in the 12 years that Kirchnerism ruled. These "emergency" powers in favor of the Executive, were transformed into the normal institutional situation in Argentina. Only Macri did not have them. Fernández obtains them at a time of economic crisis, but with a semi-annual -not annual limit-, as it has been in the past. The need to move forward with other pending bills would lead the Executive to extend the ordinary sessions of the Congress until February 29, that is to say, it would continue to session during the summer months. 

3. The opposition, in turn, showed that it cannot prevent the approval of government bills, but it does have the capacity to negotiate sections in them. In this case, it was unable to prevent the increase in withholdings - the agricultural producers voted mostly for Cambiemos - nor the pension emergency - the retirees also strongly supported the candidacy of Macri- but could eliminate the section that allowed the Executive to make changes at State agencies. For example, it can now block initiatives such as moving, agencies such as the Anti-corruption Office and the Financial Investigation Unit (FIU) to the orbit of the General Treasury Office. It will have the capacity to negotiate for the two thirds required in the Senate for the candidate for the Attorney General's Office (Rafecas). Within Cambiemos, three lines are now perceived: the one represented by Macri, who has the leadership of the PRO through Patricia Bullrich, who is the toughest against the government; the one led by Larreta, with which Vidal and Monzó agree, more pro-negotiation with the ruling party and the UCR, which in turn has a more moderate wing with the government represented by the governors and another closer to the PRO, where the President of the Cambiemos inter-block is (Negri). 

4. Meanwhile, the President manages the relationship with the Vice President well for now and is close to power factors and lobbyists. Kirchnerism showed no dissent with the emergency bills in Congress, nor with the economic measures announced by Minister Guzman. In the Judiciary, at the same time, decisions hastened in favor of Cristina and her former officials. Since the open primaries, four cases have already been closed. But her influence remains important in the appointments. The intervener of the AFI-intelligence service- (Camaño) aligns with her, as well as the new head of the Anti-Corruption Office (Croux). In the appointment of new ambassadors, there are former ministers and officials, such as Bielsa in Chile and Tomada in Mexico. Fernández, on the other hand, met with the Episcopate, listening to the criticisms of the protocol for abortion, but finding coincidences in the Plan against Hunger. He also met with AEA entrepreneurs. They will meet this week with the Field Liaison Commission, to mitigate the conflict generated by the increase in withholdings, which caused a stop in trade and partial road blockades in the north of the country. He approached the CGT by becoming present in the automotive industry guild (SMATA) when launching a sector development plan. The launch of the picket union (UTEP) organized by the moderate wing of social movements, allows the ruling party to strengthen an ally in this area. In foreign policy, he has a problem with Evo Morales - who against the US request - will perform an act in the north of the country with a million leaders from his party, something that complicates foreign policy, both in the western world as in the region, where the relationship with the President of Brazil remains difficult. 

5. To conclude 

a) Alberto Fernández scored his first political and parliamentary victory, by achieving the approval of the emergency bills in three days only, gaining Congress attributions for six months. 

b) Argentina has spent 80% of the time in the past two decades since the XXI century under this type of institutional situation, and Menem did the same in the ‘90s. 

c) The opposition has not enough power to prevent the ruling coalition's initiatives, but it does have some to negotiate amendments and condition the decisions that require the qualified two-third majority. 

d) Cristina, in turn, fully supported the emergencies and economic measures announced, and Fernandez had an approach to the Church and the AEA, and will seek one with the farming sector this week.

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