By César Chelala and Alberto Luis Zuppi
Why is Argentina in such a sorry state, economically, politically and socially?
Seventy years after the end of World War II, the world still wonders how, after 1932, Germany — at the time a technological marvel and the country that gave birth to artists such as Hesse, Goethe, Dürer, Novalis, Bach and Wagner — could have so blindly followed Adolf Hitler, an uneducated corporal turned populist dictator.
Driven by his extremely pernicious ideology, all of Germany soon fell into a deadly spiral.
Argentina’s longtime downward spiral
In terms of the self-destructive mechanisms of what is deemed “populist” moves by some, which only triggers the road to national self-destruction, the same pattern is now present in Argentina.
In economic terms, Argentina was fifth among the most developed countries in the world at the beginning of the 20th century. Today that is a sad, if not depressing, memory.
Perverse politics yields national corrosion
The steady decline since seems all the more perplexing as Argentina continues to boast fertile land, some of the best meat and wines in the world as well as significant production of soy and wheat.
In addition to natural resources, Argentina has a highly educated population, including several Nobel Prize winners.
This prompts the question: What happened to the country? Why is Argentina in such a sorry state, economically, politically and socially?
Who destroyed Argentine democracy?
Of course, one could argue that it was the dictatorship period that destroyed the country’s democracy.
But is that really the cause of why Argentines consistently vote for leaders who promise everything, only to deliver nothing? And why they generally vote for politicians who continue to destroy the country’s economy and reputation?
What is driving the country into the abyss?
Argentina’s failure is the result of Peronism, a movement based on the ideas and legacy of Argentina’s former President Juan Perón.
This was a leftist populist movement not to be mixed up politically with the hard-right Chilean military regime under Pinochet.
Evidently, some Argentinians still believe in the miracle powers of whoever is the Peronist leader.
For that reason, they are utterly convinced that the country’s saviors will be the Peronists — even though, especially given the latter-day Peronists’ track record, this hope must be considered completely irrational at this juncture.
Promising the moon, delivering self-enrichment
It should matter to Argentines claiming to care about the advance of the “common people” that corruption under Peronist governments is a most predictable pattern.
The incredible scandals perpetrated during former president Cristina Kirchner’s government should have taught the Peronist masses something.
But it is not to be. They continue to opt for magical thinking over logic and therefore continue to believe in Peronists leaders.
Not a good legacy even back when
Although Perón promoted some greatly needed social reforms benefitting the proletariat, many Argentines forget that the regime collapsed into a corrupt populist government.
To sustain itself in power, ideally perpetually, that government created a vast social group depending on government handouts and lacking the impetus toward employment and critical thinking.
This process began to play itself out in the 90s. As would be expected, the subsequent damage to the country’s social fabric has been immense.
Germans have learned their lesson
The main difference between Germany post-1933 and Argentina in the 21st century is that Germany has learned from its grave errors at the time and focused on dealing with the subsequent socio-political trauma.
In Argentina, meanwhile, we repeat the same mistakes ad infinitum, to the point where we wonder if there is any exit from this Borgesian labyrinth.
After a brief break from Peronism with the election in 2015 of former president Mauricio Macri, there was a period of hope.
Unfortunately, the bubble of optimism burst as Macri’s administration proved as inept as his Peronist predecessors.
Despite this, Macri’s presidency established a semblance of normalcy in the country, including a renewed respect for the country’s institutions.
That respect has once again disappeared during Cristina Kirchner’s presidency and now, when she formally serves as Argentina’s Vice President.
Purging the judicial system
Kirchner is using her influence over President Alberto Fernández to persecute her political adversaries and to purge the judicial system of all judges who do not have the authority — and the courage — to investigate her misdeeds.
In that regard, Madam Kirchner is following the pernicious path set by Juan Perón when he declared in 1946, “I place the spirit of justice above the judicial power.”
It is tragic that Argentina has returned, yet again, to another incompetent and corrupt Peronist president, plus a revengeful Vice President.
The chance to escape the Peronist grip on the country seems lost. In part, Macri is to blame. Despite the early promise, he ultimately proved incompetent, as well as arrogant and blind to people’s needs.
In all likelihood, he never realized that he held the key to the door out of the labyrinth.
Should Argentina have loved British imperialism?
Some Argentines say that the worst Argentine mistake was repealing the British invasions of the country (1806-1807). Had we let them win, perhaps Argentina would now be a prosperous country like Australia or New Zealand. Or so the tale goes.
Instead, Argentines still face the abyss. Only God knows whether we will be eventually able to rise above it and resume our path as part of the group of prosperous nations in the world.
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