FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Argentina Squares Off with International Financiers

by ROGER BURBACH

President Nestor Kirchner of Argentina is locked in a standoff with the International Monetary Fund on the third anniversary of a popular uprising. Just before Christmas, 2001 protesters surged through the streets of Buenos Aires demanding that the entire political class and its international financial backers be tossed out. The IMF along with private banks like the Bank of Boston and Citibank were denounced for their role in the country’s economic crisis. In less than two weeks the country had five presidents.

Argentina became a caldron of social ferment. In neighborhoods and municipalities, ‘popular assemblies’ emerged to debate issues and to protect local interests. Some assemblies have urged people not to pay their property taxes and instead to turn the revenue over to neighborhood hospitals.

The assemblies also discuss international issues. According to assembly organizer, Lidia Pertieria: ‘One of the rallying cries coming from our communities is “no more foreign loans”. New loans only mean more swindling and robbery by our government officials.’

The piquetereos, or picketers, are the most persistent and intransigent of the protesters. Comprised of the underclass that is suffering the brunt of the country’s unemployment rate that has officially reached as high as 20 per cent, they pour into the streets, blocking traffic, demanding jobs, government help for their families, and land to grow their own food.

Kirchner became president in May, 2003. At his inauguration he strongly criticized the neo-liberal economic policies of his predecessors, blaming their slavish adherence to the IMF’s rigid structural adjustment policies for the country’s dire economic conditions. He also demanded that privatization contracts for public utilities imposed on the country be renegotiated, and declared it is the responsibility of the state to ‘introduce equality where the market excludes and abandons’.

Kirchner and the IMF have fought fiercely over the terms of new loans and the repayment of the country’s international debt. In an agreement with the IMF last year, he insisted that no more than three per cent of the budget would be used to pay down the debt. The poor and unemployed had to be a priority ­ as well as public investment. The IMF reluctantly agreed to these terms. Since then the Argentine economy has bounced back and is on track to post an 8 per cent growth rate in 2004. Now the Fund wants to increase the country’s debt repayments, citing increased growth as a reason to siphon more money from the economy.

More critically, the IMF is trying to get a better deal for the private lenders. In 2002 Argentina defaulted on nearly half of its $180 billion international debt. And then after signing the 2003 IMF agreement, the finance minister slashed the nominal value of defaulted bonds by 75 per cent ­ claiming that most were held by speculative capital that flooded the country during the halcyon days of the 1990s. Bondholders in the US, Europe and Japan rejected the offer and are pushing the IMF to force Argentina to pay up.

Continued IMF threats have prompted policy analysts and some bureaucrats to support a complete break with the IMF ­ exploring the possibilities of life outside of the ‘neo-liberal’ world. ‘There is more money, but not to pay off the debt,’ Kirchner has stated.

This week the Inter-American Development Bank demonstrated more flexibility than the IMF by extending a $200 million loan to Argentina for investment in agricultural projects. Hoping to exploit differences among international lenders, the government appears set to end its negotiations with the IMF for new credits. It will make payments on its old IMF debt but will chart an independent course over future debt payments and new economic policies.

Kirchner declares: ‘We are not going to repeat the history of the past… We don’t want new agreements that will frustrate us and the world. For many years we were on our knees before financial organizations and the speculative funds… We’ve had enough!’

ROGER BURBACH is director of the Center for the study of the Americans (CENSA) based in Berkeley, California. He is co- author with Jim Tarbell of “Imperial Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire,” He released late last year “The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice.

 

 

More articles by:

ROGER BURBACH is the director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) and a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley and author of The Pinochet Affair.

Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
Robert Koehler
War and Poverty: A Compromise with Hell
Mike Bader – Mike Garrity
Senator Tester Must Stop Playing Politics With Public Lands
Kenneth Culton
No Time for Olympic Inspired Nationalism
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime
Irene Tung – Teófilo Reyes
Tips are for Servers Not CEOs
Randy Shields
Yahoomans in Paradise – This is L.A. to Me
Thomas Knapp
No Huawei! US Spy Chiefs Reverse Course on Phone Spying
Mel Gurtov
Was There Really a Breakthrough in US-North Korea Relations?
David Swanson
Witness Out of Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
George Brandis, the Rule of Law and Populism
Dean Baker
The Washington Post’s Long-Running Attack on Unions
Andrew Stewart
Providence Public School Teachers Fight Back at City Hall
Stephen Cooper
Majestic Meditations with Jesse Royal: the Interview
David Yearsley
Olympic Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail