On November 22 in Argentina, Mauricio Macri of the Let’s Change Alliance (Alianza Cambiemos), a conservative right-wing party, won the presidential election against Daniel Scioli of the Front for Victory party (Frente para la Victoria) with a marginal victory of 51.4% to Scoili’s 48.6%. While not an electoral sweep, this conservative victory demonstrates that neoliberalism, and the emphasis on free trade, austerity and privatization that accompany it, threatens Argentina and the rest of Latin America. Macri’s electoral victory could mean the beginning of a right-wing tendency in the region that has had left-wing victories since Chavez’s victory in 1998.
A mere 24 hours after his victory, Macri immediately called for Venezuela’s suspension from Mercosur due to false charges of human rights violations by Maduro’s government. Mercosur, which stands for Mercado Común del Sur (Common Southern Market), is a regional organization meant to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, people, and currency in South America. Full members of Mercosur include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
In a wry response to the human rights charges, noted Argentinian intellectual Dr. Atilio Boron wrote, “Macri seems to not have been informed that last October 28, the Bolivarian Republic was reelected to the UN Human Rights Council.” (Telesurtv.net, Nov. 24, 2015)
Membership to Mercosur requires a democracy clause that seeks to punish anti-democratic governments through isolation from the organization. Macri, however, needs unanimous support from Mercosur’s other full members, the majority of whom stand with Venezuela.
Macri’s plan to discredit Venezuela through regional institutions throws a wrench into the political integration of Latin America that Venezuela has worked tirelessly to foster. In this act of hostility so quickly after his victory, Marci seeks to prove his allegiance to U.S. imperialism. Macri would open Argentina up to Europe and the U.S., an act that works against the purpose of sovereign, anti-imperialist organizations like CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and Mercosur.
The administrations of Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández were marked by important gains including an increase in the minimum wage, a raise in the minimum retirement pension and number of retirees, and the growth of Argentina’s middle class. In addition, Argentina showed support for Venezuela and unifying regional organizations like ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the People’s of our America). Macri’s victory is not only a threat to the Argentinean people and the gains they have made but also to the rising anti-imperialist solidarity in Latin America.
Macri also declared he would annul the memorandum of agreement with Iran that would establish a joint investigation into the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people. This incident was twisted by the right-wing opposition to accuse Iran and wage a defamation campaign against President Fernández. The hostile media hype served to weaken support for her administration, in addition to other destabilizing attacks.
Earlier this week, a group of legislators in Argentina called the Parliamentary Friends of Venezuela met to publicly express worries about Macri seeking Venezuela’s expulsion from Mercosur. Carolina Gaillard, an Argentinean legislator explained that, “it doesn’t help the country or the bloc or the region.” She cites that there are two reasons Macri will not win his efforts to expel Venezuela. One is that Macri does not count with the support of the other Mercosur members, namely Bolivia, Brazil, and Uruguay, and the other is that Venezuela is a legitimate government with a valid democratic process.
While Macri’s win is a threat to progressive governments, movements, and regional organizations in Latin America, the prospect for struggle remains strong. There is an impetus from the people’s movement to defend the people’s gains against a looming neo-liberal onslaught. Florencia Prego, a sociologist and representative from the radical left group in Argentina called Quebracho, explains to Telesur network that Macri’s attacks are part of a “conservative revenge” across Latin America to attack all progressive gains. Prego sheds light on the fact that the right wing will not easily win because of the high level of organization of the popular movement that is determined to defend national sovereignty, anti-imperialism and cooperation among all people.
The Madres de Plaza de Mayo, a group of mothers that organized beginning in the 1970s in Argentina as a response to the abductions, disappearances and murders of young left wing militants at the hands of the U.S.-backed military regime, have organized a demonstration on Dec. 10 against Macri. The main message of the protest will be “Ni Un Paso Atrás — Resistir es Combatir” (Not one step back, to resist is to fight). As progressives and revolutionaries across the world, we need to stand with Argentina’s people’s movement and their resistance efforts against neoliberalism and imperialist intervention.