Argentina’s Dark Hours

It is interesting to try to survive in a country run by incompetent and corrupt leaders. Argentines are already near 200 days on home seclusion. We call this the “infectadura,” playing with the Spanish words for infection and dictatorship. After 200 days, the only thing we have achieved with the Alberto Fernández government is the right to be among the ten most coronavirus-infected countries in the world.

In the meantime, the country’s Vice President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, continues to be the power behind the throne. Mediocrity, not meritocracy, is the rule. We live in a country of no future, no measures for protecting small industries, desultory decision-making. It is a unique experience under populist Peronism, corrupted Kirchnerism, and this strange experience the President is performing. We may call it “Puppetism.” We understand under this term something between a farce or being a puppet animated by someone else.

This is our cruel reality: we are under an oxymoronic president, incapable of taking one decision without contradicting a past statement, and a vice president – corrupt as no one before in Argentina’s history- who is pulling strings to move the puppet. Argentina is making all the right moves to be like Venezuela. Jorge Luis Borges, the noted Argentinian writer, once famously said, “Peronists are neither good nor bad. They are incorrigible.”

The latest effort of the government is a reform of the judicial system. The idea is to extend the number of federal tribunals and to put in charge judges closely allied to the government’s ideology. It is nonsensical for the government to be intent on reforming the judiciary during the most terrible pandemic of our history, instead of being focused on caring for the health of its people.

The main idea behind judicial reform is to guarantee impunity to all those accused of corruption charges during Cristina Kirchner’s presidency. Kirchner herself facing a dozen charges of bribery, embezzlement, and money laundering from her time in office as President. Besides, she is accused of giving Iran significant control of the investigation into the still unresolved bombing of AMIA, a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Eighty-five people were killed in that terrorist attack and hundreds were injured. The Iranian government is believed to have been behind the attack. Her main accuser then was the man who is now the country’s President; none other than Alberto Fernández. Kafkaesque…

This is happening as the coronavirus pandemic has devastated Argentina’s economy. Respected economist Orlando J. Ferreres, predicts that approximately 30,000 companies will close this year due to the pandemic. According to the U.N., almost 900,000 people may lose their jobs this year, and GDP will fall in December between 8.2% and 10%.

Poverty and hunger levels are also increasing rapidly. “The country that produced food for 400 million people today needs to provide food assistance to 11 million Argentines,” says Roberto Valente, UN resident coordinator in Argentina. This number represents a quarter of the country’s total population.

We Argentinians have learned from Kafka better than any other country in the world. And Argentina seems like a country out of Kafka’s fertile imagination. We are a paradigm of surrealism. We don’t know if President Fernández has read Kafka. But even if he hasn’t read him, he is still entangled in the strings typical of Kafka’s stories. We are impotent spectators of this incredible development. But something must be said: despite hurricanes and earthquakes, despite any and all possible miseries, Argentines will never surrender. We have lived in a normal country. And we want to live in one again. Growing opposition to the regime will prove that Argentina will survive these darkest hours.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”