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May 19, 2003

Argentina w/ Brazil, Venezuala Turns Left

This wasn't supposed to be the script. Despite economic chaos and financial looting by the elites, Argentina was supposed to true-to-form elect some Peronist "populist" who would really just pimp the country once again to national corporate elites.

But things went odd when former President Carlos Menem, tainted by corruption, just barely won the first round, and the surprise second place went to Néstor Kirchner, a little-known provincial governor who, while a member of the Peronist party, seems to have real economic populist instincts. He has said "I will not be prey for corporations" and has attacked "groups and sectors of economic power that benefited from unacceptable privileges during the past decade."

With a surge of support in the polls, Menem conceded to the inevitable and withdrew from the election runoff, handing the Presidency to Kirchner. What his overall policies will be is unclear, but his public plans are encouraging:

On the campaign trail, Mr. Kirchner has defined his economic philosophy as "neo Keynesian" without providing much in the way of specifics. But he has talked, of a huge public works effort to lift the country out of nearly five years of recession, led by a program to build three million new homes, which he says will create five million jobs in a country where the unemployment rate has been running at record rates of more than 20 percent.
While he has expressed hostility to the IMF, most are "predicting that the man who ran as a left-of-center populist will take a cue from Brazil's new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva" and try a balanced approach to keep the financial markets from ravaging the country. (Yes, not company as in initial version of the post.)

It is unclear exactly how far Kirchner will go, but what is true is that there is now a large block of powerful left-leaning Presidents in South America who, if they decide to, can become a base for far-reaching challenges to US-led neo-liberalism. And that can only be a good thing.

Posted by Nathan at May 19, 2003 10:59 AM