Argentina far-right libertarian wins general election

On 19 November far-right economist Javier Milei was elected president of Argentina with 55.7% vote in a second round of voting. This was the largest such victory since Argentina’s return to democracy in 1983. He defeated Peronist Sergio Massa who had won the first round on 22 October, with 36% against Milei’s 30%, but without enough votes for outright victory.


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Argentina: down with the reform in Jujuy!

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of the northern province of Jujuy in Argentina, against the governor’s anti-democratic constitutional reform, low wages and police repression.

On 20 June a partial constitutional reform was passed in Jujuy by the Constitutional Convention after barely a month of debate behind closed doors. The proposed changes included attacks on the right to protest and on freedom of speech, further concentration of state powers and revised legal mechanisms to enable the privatisation of indigenous land and resource extraction by corporations.


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40 years since Malvinas invasion – Britain as imperialist as ever

Sinking of the Belgrano

Since August 2021, the provincial government of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina has voiced anger at plans by British-Dutch firm BAM Nutall to upgrade and expand the port facilities on the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. At stake is Argentina’s sovereignty which Britain violated in 1833 by settling the islands and again in 1908 by claiming further Antarctic territory from Argentina. As tariff-free trade between the islands and the EU ended in January 2021, Brexit has put pressure on Britain to secure the viability of its colony or else abandon it. The port development is a bid to undermine Tierra del Fuego’s monopoly over tourism into Antarctica and consolidate Britain’s ability to illegally exploit oil and gas fields around the islands, estimated to be as rich as the North Sea. Antarctica itself could be a treasure trove of mineral and fossil fuel resources. Britain continues to conduct regular military exercises in the region. On 6 February 2022 the British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was forced to defend Britain’s colonial control, after Argentina’s president Alberto Fernandez secured China’s backing in the dispute. This comes 40 years after Britain sent an imperialist armada to expel Argentinian forces from the islands in 1982 during the Falklands crisis. We re-publish below extracts from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 20 examining the imperialist interests at play in the crisis and the betrayals of the British labour movement.


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Argentina:  a virtual default

Protest against Mauricio Macri's IMF deal, Buenos Aires 2018

Taking office on 10 December 2019, President Alberto Fernandez faced a simple fact – his defeated opponent Macri had placed Argentina in an impossible international debt position, a situation of virtual default. Western debt mongers, in their pathological anxiety to plunder the country, were unconcerned with the consequences: 40% of the population live in poverty. However, Fernandez’s electoral victory stands against the recent reactionary shift to the right across much of Latin America. ALVARO MICHAELS  reports.


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Argentina in crisis

Police clash with protesters in Buenos Aires, September 2019

In the presidential primary elections of 11 August, neo­liberal President Mauricio Macri was heavily defeated by the new Frente de Todos – the alliance of Alberto Fernandez and ex-president Cristina Kirchner which won 47.65% of the vote. Juntos por el Cambio, Macri’s assemblage, took 32.08%. Roberto Lavagna’s Consenso Federal came third with 8.23%. With a 66% turnout, this defeat was the electoral response to Macri’s fervent collaboration with imper­ialism since taking office in 2015. 


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Argentina - government faces electoral defeat

Argentinian capitalism is in a profound crisis, with a large balance of payments deficit, 55% inflation, 62% borrowing rates and an unpayable state debt. The employment rate, the number of people who have a job as a percentage of the working age population, is 42.50%, lower than South Africa (43.1%) or Brazil (54.7%). About a third of Argentina’s 43 million people live below the poverty line, downtrodden, cheated and robbed. Nearly 8% of the population, 3.4 million Argentinians, limit themselves to one meal a day, while farm products make up a huge 64% of Argentina’s exported goods. Alvaro Michaels reports.


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Falkland crisis: Oppose imperialist war

British troops land in the Falkland Islands

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No. 19, May 1982

As we go to press the largest British imperialist naval fleet assembled for 25 years has started a war to retake the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. On 2 April, the fascist Argentinian junta, headed by General Galtieri, took over the islands in a patent manoeuvre to divert the growing class opposition to its rule. As a result, British imperialism is once again on the warpath to maintain one of the last outposts of British colonialism. It is using all the scientific techniques and weapons of modern warfare to destroy the Argentinian airforce and navy. In this murderous assault British imperialism now has the full backing of US imperialism.


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Mapuche communities brutally attacked by police

mapuches Chile argentina

For decades the indigenous Mapuche people have struggled for their land against mining companies, the land-thirsty multinational corporation Benetton and megaprojects to build holiday resorts and ski stations in their historical territories. Mapuche people have resisted state violence and organised themselves, facing repression on both sides of the Andes, especially from the Chilean state, where the ‘anti-terrorist’ laws of dictator Pinochet were never abolished and are used against them.


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State kidnap in Argentina’s Mapuche Community: Santiago Maldonado ‘disappeared’

Santiago Maldonado

On 1 August 2017, a group of Argentina’s armed National Gendarmerie (GNA) attacked the territory of the Mapuche community Pu Lof en Resistencia, in the department of Cushamen, in Chubut province, Patagonia, Argentina. They attacked a roadblock which had been erected by protesters on the main north south route 40. They fired lead and rubber bullets and burned many families’ possessions. Santiago Maldonado, a 28-year-old activist who arrived the day before to support the community in its fight to reclaim traditional homelands, disappeared, was last seen caught and beaten as he retreated from the raid. He has not been seen for two months now. This Cushamen protest was held to defy the detention in March 2016 of Mapuche leader Facundo Jones Huala, who heads the Ancestral Mapuche Resistance (RAM) separatist group, and seven of his comrades. Jones Huala is in a Chubut jail, and the Chilean government, which considers him a ‘terrorist’, has requested his extradition.


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Argentinian election excites reaction

On 22 November Mauricio Macri, mayor of Buenos Aires, won the presidential election under the ‘Cambiemos’ (‘Let’s Change’) coalition party flag, with 51.4% of votes. Macri narrowly defeated Daniel Scioli, the ‘Peronist’ Justicialista Party (in its ‘Front for Victory’ alliance) candidate, who got 48.6% of the votes, in the first run off in Argentine political history. Macri is only the fourth non-Peronist president elected over the past half century, and is outvoted in the Lower House with 91 of the 257 seats. He takes power on 10 December, promising a return to neoliberalism.


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Argentina: US venture capitalist attack dogs

On 30 July Argentina was forced into technical default on its renegotiated international debts (FRFI 240). A US court blocked Argentine funds of $539m held at the Bank of New York Mellon for interest payments; Citibank was stopped from paying creditors through its Argentine office. The US court is backing US hedge funds NML Capital and Aurelius Capital Management, which aim to extort 100% face value from secondhand state bonds bought at knock down prices. Argentina cannot service its restructured debt until it settles its $1.3bn dispute with the companies, which threatens Argentina’s economy.


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Argentina: Imperialism’s financial grip

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 240 August/September 2014

Central to the export of capital by imperialism is the imposition of debt on weaker states. Debt interest payments have to be enforced if the rich are to prosper and a domestic middle class be paid off. After Argentina’s default on its $100bn debt in 2001, including $81bn of international debt, its ruling class has tried to weaken the hold the EU and US’s financial elite have on the country. Default was Argentina’s only option in the face of a 2001 state debt of 160% of GDP, a 10% fall in GDP from 1998, unemployment around 25% and over half the population in poverty. However the ruling class needs access to foreign capital. Some accommodation to its creditors is essential. Alvaro Michaels reports.


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Argentina and Bolivia: Renationalisations anger imperialists

On 16 April and 1 May respectively Argentina and Bolivia reclaimed ownership of energy companies privatised by Spanish corporations during the neoliberal assault of the 1990s. Sharp reactions from the Spanish state and the European Union underline the conflict of interest between those exploited for their resources and labour, and imperialism, which lives off this plunder.

Bolivia and Argentina have distinct histories, but both have long been trapped in the web of financial dealings woven by the imperialist powers. In their national struggles to throw off these parasitic ties, the clash of nationalisation versus privatisation of the main industries has been key. Nationalisation immediately places the surpluses of these industries at the disposal of the state, but provokes intense hostility from domestic and transnational capital which battle to repossess the property or demand huge compensation.


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Argentina: turning the screw

FRFI 163 October / November 2001

Capital valued at $8 billion fled Argentina between July and August. The country cannot sustain payments on its $128bn external debts which amounted to 52.8% of the GDP in 2000. Export earnings have fallen, whilst interest payments on foreign debt have tripled since 1992. Treasury bills offer 14% and the state is virtually without credit. Speculators are hoping for devaluation so they can later buy pesos at a cheaper rate, so making a fast buck. International capital fears not only that it will not get its interest and dividends, but for its own safety. The UK has $4bn invested in Argentina. Small wonder British prime minister Tony Blair was keen, during his July visit, to support President de la Rua’s new plans for austerity, not least to prevent a subsequent collapse in the Brazilian economy. Not to be outdone by the Europeans, the deputy secretary of the US Treasury flew in the next day to promise $1.2bn from the IMF for September if the Argentinian government did ‘what was necessary’.


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Argentina: making the poor poorer

FRFI 164 December 2001 / January 2002

Argentina cannot finance its foreign debts of $132bn, of which government debts amount to $95bn. With recession, the GDP is 6% below its peak three years ago and falling fast; it is clear that this year’s government spending deficit will now run to over $20bn, much higher than the IMF target of $6bn, which was attached to supporting loans. This is despite the harsh anti-working class measures it has undertaken (see FRFI 163). The ‘balanced budget’ plan of the summer has been abandoned. The growing public sector debt is likely to be some 57% of the GDP by the end of the year. The government will thus need to borrow another $12bn to $15bn. This is going to have to come from reductions or deferrals of international debt. The IMF’s decision to give limited backing to Argentina last summer cannot stop the economic rot.

The result of a simple devaluation would be an intense reaction from the workers and from an increasingly proleterianised middle class. Thus the state seems keen to hold onto the link to the dollar and is asking creditors to accept a debt restructuring, a write-down of the debts, which will severely damage Argentina’s relations with the international financial markets. Naturally the foreign lenders (ganged together in the new ‘Emerging Markets Creditors Association’) are pressing Argentina to adopt a different route. Private inward capital flows have ceased already and the imperialist banks’ ‘rating agencies’ are already threatening to declare Argentina in default. Its debts are already rated ‘CC’, below those of Pakistan and Nigeria, much like junk bonds. Some arrangement must be forthcoming or a complete default will occur. Since Argentina’s bonds account for some 23% of all emerging market debts, this money market would be paralysed if Argentina fails. Already in 2000 net private capital fled all emerging markets to the sum of $150bn and this is accelerating. Stock market prices have fallen 46% over the last 12 months.


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Argentina 'globalised': the workers revolt

FRFI 165 February / March 2002

A spontaneous mass revolt by the Argentinean poor against the government on 20 December brought it down within days. On 28 December, continuing huge demonstrations and other direct action forced the choice of the fifth President – Eduardo Duhalde – in two weeks. Almost daily riots have continued throughout Argentina involving both the poor, demanding work and justice, and the middle classes, demanding security and access to their savings. On 10 January anti-government rallies led to still more attacks on banks, stores, government buildings and the police. The $280 billion Argentinean economy will shrink over 7% this year; inflation will jump towards 50% and the peso is bound to sink from parity to over 2.5 per dollar. The continuing question for the Argentinean masses is how to replace the existing state machinery with one of their own design, working in their interests. The Argentinean bourgeoisie and its imperialist paymasters are now having to rethink how they can exploit the economy. As President Duhalde said on television, ‘If we don’t deactivate this time bomb well, it will explode...every night I’m consulting God and the Virgin Mary’. Alvaro Michaels reports.


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Argentina: Workers organise

FRFI 166 April / May 2002

This year Argentina’s economy will contract at least 5%. Half the population already lives in poverty on less than US$3 per day. If the January inflation rate of 2.3% continues for the rest of the year, 4.3 million more people will be thrown into poverty. Meanwhile the IMF is forcing the Argentinean state to continue cuts in spending and abandon its temporary dual exchange rate, so accelerating the collapse of the economy.

This removes all room for manoeuvre for the Argentinean bourgeoisie as it falls further into the grip of imperialism. At the same time, President Duhalde hypocritically laments the fact that the ‘political class’ does not represent the wishes of the people.


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Argentina: Starving the workers – only way out for imperialism

FRFI 168 August / September 2002

Argentinean GNP fell 16.3% in the first three months of 2002, following Argentina’s default last December on its foreign debt and the subsequent massive devaluation of the peso. Both domestic and external trade have collapsed, as have tax collection and state spending. Six million workers, 45% of the working population, are now unemployed or underemployed, 1.6 million more than in May 2001. For the 11.3 million with jobs there are shorter hours, massive inflation and a scarcity of goods to buy. With half the population plunged into poverty, Argentineans are now facing starvation. Malnutrition is common throughout the country. In the Pilar district of Buenos Aires there is an 80% increase in infectious illness. Health Minister Garcia has said ‘I’m afraid that we’ll experience something similar to Russia when they lost seven years off the average life expectancy in their last macro-economic crisis’. Spanish, French, US, Brazilian and Venezuelan organisations have given medicine, clothing and food worth £4 million this year but this a drop in the ocean given the needs of the burgeoning numbers of the hungry poor.


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Argentina on the rack

FRFI 169 October / November 2002

8.4 million of Argentina’s 34 million population are now destitute. Malnutrition is widespread; children eat fried toads, or rats or pigeons. Everywhere desperation stalks the land. Workers in Rosario who haven’t eaten in days seize a crashed cattle truck and eat the load. Violence against property is rising and the shrinking middle class provides a boom market only for security systems, defence courses, guards and armoured vehicles.


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Argentina: new president, continuing misery

Nestor Kirchner and economy minister Roberto Lavagna

The Argentinean ruling class, led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been on the offensive. It has slashed the living conditions of the population to such an extent that Argentina, through a policy of starvation (see FRFI 169), is actually increasing its foreign currency reserves (now $10.5 billion) and paying back state debts. Exports of wheat, soya, corn and meat increased during 2002, with a current balance of payments surplus of $8.8 billion, whilst hunger ravaged the country. The gross domestic product fell 15% and half a million jobs were lost over the last year. Accordingly, in January, an IMF deal saw $6.6 billion of debt ‘rolled over’ again, with loans covering obligations up to August. The IMF vultures are ‘optimistically’ planning an intense squeeze over two years, whilst 20% of children are already malnourished. Alvaro Michaels reports.


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Argentina: How the ruling class deals with its debts

FRFI 178 April / May 2004

Having reduced the country to mass poverty by a decade of plunder and privatisation primed with dollars from the global banks, the ruling class now struggles to save its own skin. On the one hand it cannot attack the working class any more provocatively, on the other it cannot absolutely repudiate its debts to the banks. Finally, it has to keep on seducing the middle classes. Thus President Kirchner is now playing the patriot by keeping the IMF at bay whilst praying that a 70% currency devaluation and starvation wages will boost growth and exports, and so attract new investments from abroad.


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