Soaring inflation, rising poverty, income drops, increasing hunger and malnutrition, has all caused widespread protest and opposition in Argentina as openly neoliberal President Mauricio Macri’s austerity measures continue to crush an entire generation of Argentines. This is in order to comply with the terms of a $57 billion International Monetary Fund bailout package.
With 32% of the population living below the poverty line and the country having a 10% unemployment rate, Argentina is in the midst of an intense economic crisis. With inflation set to reach 55% this year, the Argentinian people are being economically supressed so that the full force of neoliberalism can continue to dominate the South American country. However, is neoliberalism also the reason why Argentine-Anglo relations are flourishing despite traditionally being hostile?
Argentina and the United Kingdom have hostile relations because of overlapping claims to Antarctica and the Islas Malvinas, or more commonly known as the Falkland Islands, with the Malvinas issue breaking out into war briefly in 1982. Argentine-Anglo relations are undoubtedly improving today, and it is not only because of Macri’s 10 yearlong amicable relationship with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but mainly because of their shared adherence to neoliberal dogma.
Macri and Johnson first met at a Davos summit in January 2009 when they were both mayors of Buenos Aires and London respectively, and commentators said they immediately clicked. It is therefore unsurprising that on July 23 of this year, 10 years after their first meeting, Macri sent a “Congratulations” message through WhatsApp to Boris Johnson who had replaced Theresa May as UK Prime Minister.
Johnson visited Buenos Aires May last year when the city hosted the G20 summit. This provided Johnson, serving as Foreign Secretary at the time, the opportunity to visit Macri and praise his efforts for opening the Argentina economy to corporate domination. Surprisingly, Johnson also paid homage at the war memorial in downtown Buenos Aires that commemorates the dead of the 1982 Malvinas War, a source of Argentinian patriotic sentiment.
In retrospect to other global affairs, improving Argentine-Anglo relations remains a low priority for the Johnson government. However, Argentinian media has not failed to let their compatriots know that the UK supported Argentina’s request for financial aid from the IMF. With Macri prioritizing the opening of the economy, it does present the opportunity for peaceful relations between Argentina and the UK to become permanent. However, at what cost?
As neoliberalism demands the smallest amount of government interference in the economy as possible to encourage Big Business, transnational corporations transcend state rivalries in search of new markets and trade opportunities. This means with neoliberalism ruling over Argentina, resolving the competing claims over Antarctica and the Malvinas will be a low priority for Macri’s government.
In a double insult to the Argentinian people, neoliberalism claims to generate wealth for all through a trickle-down-effect, however it has only created a bloated hyper market state that has increased poverty and unemployment by squeezing the Middle Class. With the Argentinian people distracted from international affairs, Macri has taken no initiative to resolve the Antarctic and Malvinas issues that are close to the hearts of Argentines.
Just like his Argentinian counterpart, who was educated at the elite Colegio Cardenal Newman and the son of a multi-company owning businessman, Johnson, the descendent of aristocrats and the super wealthy from Britain, Switzerland and the Ottoman Empire, also has little interest for the lower classes of the UK as he prioritizes Brexit to transfer the UK’s economic rule from European Union technocrats to British oligarchs. Britain is increasingly returning to the times of Charles Dickins with child poverty, homelessness and unemployment all increasing under Johnsons and his Tory predecessor’s leadership, alongside the return of Victorian era diseases like scarlet fever. Both Macri and Johnson have proven to protect the interests of transnational corporations at the expense of the lower classes.
With Argentines distracted because of the economic crisis, it must be questioned whether Macri will take the next step beyond sidelining the Antarctic and Malvinas issues and try to formalize an agreement to resolve Argentina’s contentions with the UK. With the result of the August 2019 Primary Election going in favor of Macri’s main presidential rival, Alberto Fernández, it gives a signal that Macri could be ousted in the October General elections.
According to a former Argentinian minister, Daniel Filmus, Argentines seek to “choose a government that favors industrial development, that recovers the salary, labor and interests of those sectors that want a productive Argentina that distributes the benefits among all.” He continues to explain that “the neoliberal governments that arrived in Argentina, Brazil or Chile did not have any news to offer the peoples and reapplied the policies that had already failed in the nineties. The results are in sight: the countries became smaller, the distribution of income was more regressive, the industry was destroyed.”
Pollsters themselves are convinced that Fernández will win the October 27 elections. Ricardo Rouvier & Asociados predict Fernández will win in the first round with 51.5% of the vote versus 34.9% for Macri; Trespuntozero believe Fernández will win 51.9% against 34% for Macri, and Clivajes estimated the split would be 52.6%-32.5% split. However, most pollsters also predicted that Macri would win the August election and did not anticipate the landslide victory for Fernández.
Therefore, their predictions cannot be entirely trusted. This would still give Macri encouragement for the October elections and therefore it would be unlikely he would want to unleash further anger towards him by signing treaties that would favour the UK in Antarctica and the Malvinas. Because of this, the issue of Antarctica and the Malvinas will not be prioritized between Macri and Johnson before the elections. However, if Macri is to win the October elections, will he then go and take the next step and betray the Antarctic and Malvinas issues, that are dear to Argentinians, in favour of his British friend?