In effect, the strike, which left the streets deserted in cities around the country, was a plebiscite on the neo-liberal policies President Mauricio Macri has imposed on the nation for the past two and a half years, to devastating effect: greater poverty, joblessness, destruction of the internal market and rewarding speculation instead of productive investment. It came just as Macri was trumpeting his “victory” in obtaining a $50 billion standby loan from the IMF, with brutal austerity conditionalities.
Going into next year’s presidential elections, Macri is desperate to avoid further social conflict, to convince investors to put their money into the country. After the strike, the government announced it will reopen negotiations with the CGT and other trade unions, and lift the previously set ceiling of a 15% wage increase—untenable given a 30-40% inflation rate—but insisted at the same time there will be no deviation from the IMF’s program. Macri’s own cabinet members admit the IMF program will plunge the country into a worse recession, but say the “pain” must be endured.
But such erstwhile allies as Eduardo van der Kooy, editor of the pro-government daily Clarín, are telling the President that whatever “victories” he claims to have won on the international front—an IMF loan, or having Argentina just classified as “an emerging market”—means nothing domestically. Macri has to get his act together, van der Kooy warns, stop blaming his problems on former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner—time to stop beating that dead horse—and come up with a coherent strategy or lose his bid for reelection.