Argentina Election: a Major Step Towards Restoring Democracy for People

photo: Beatrice Murch (CC BY 2.0)

The ITUC welcomes the result of Argentina’s presidential election in which Alberto Fernández has defeated Argentina’s incumbent president Mauricio Macri. Macri has overseen a period of economic collapse, of violations of workers’ rights, of IMF austerity and has attempted to push through anti-worker legislation.

“We congratulate the courageous people of Argentina who, for the past four years, have stood up to a president that has truly embodied the failure of neoliberalism. They tell us there is no alternative to their policies of austerity. Now the incoming government has an historic opportunity to show that there is an alternative to confiscating wealth and power for the benefit of the elite. That alternative means deepening democracy; it means rebuilding trust and fairness by delivering shared prosperity and by dismantling the structures that redistribute wealth to the elite,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.

Working people have been facing an increasingly harsh situation under Macri. While the minimum wage has been frozen, inflation has meant that people are increasingly struggling to cover their needs. While half of the working population is in informal employment, 60% of those who do have formal jobs don’t earn enough to keep their families above the poverty line. Inequality has skyrocketed, increasing by 20% in three years. People who have stood up to defend their rights have been sanctioned, with trade unionists facing detention, prosecution and imprisonment and striking workers being replaced and dismissed.

“We’ve seen a wave of reactionary, anti-worker parties take hold of power in the region. But people are reacting. This election shows that their struggles will deliver political change over time. You can’t fool all the people all the time. Fernández comes from a political tradition that understands the role of social dialogue and of the need for working people to have a say over policy decisions that shape their lives. This is already a huge difference to Macri’s approach,” said Burrow.

Argentina’s debt spiralled under Macri, who signed the largest loan in the history of the IMF. The conditions of the repayment of this loan have placed much of the burden on working people. The IMF has doubled down on its approach of harsh austerity and pushing for the government to meet all its fiscal targets through additional cuts. Over two million people were driven into poverty in less than a year following the implementation of these measures. Inadequate protections for the most vulnerable have been coupled with calls for reductions in pensioners’ incomes by 20%.

“This election sends a direct message to the IMF. The call is louder now than ever for its failed prescriptions to shift. New Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva must make a clean break with the business-as-usual policies of the past. The coming renegotiation of Argentina’s loan can be a landmark moment. It will require leadership, but if people are to regain trust in the institutions that are meant to serve them, a major change is needed,” said Burrow.