Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner came out of the gate guns blazing yesterday in her first public appearance since her party’s crushing electoral defeat on Sunday.
It was the worst election of her career, bar none.
To put it in perspective, back in 2011, Kirchner retook the Presidency with the support of 52% of the country. This week, her powerful “Victory” party was only able to get 30% of the country’s votes. That means in just two years 4 million voters defected to opposition parties.
So in true Fernandez fashion, it was time for some theatre.
In a fiery speech at Tecnopolis, the Science Ministry, she railed against her opposition, essentially calling them the B-Squad… stand-ins.
“We will discuss with big-league players, not with those sitting on the bench,” she said, later adding, “I’m nobody’s substitute, I’m the president of 40 million Argentines, I’m prepared to discuss with industry, the banks, fellow friends of the unions, with the true and real economic players. This is not match for substitutes, it’s a match for the main players of interests and lobbies.”
That was nothing, ultimately. Her harshest critic sm was for anyone doubting Argentina’s official inflation figures, and the hedge fund managers and “vulture” creditors she accuses of trying to blast her country back to the days of dependence on world powers.
“”When Wall Street celebrates we start worrying — every time Wall Street was happy, things went wrong for the people” she said. And later — “Those who say we need to adopt an inflation targeting regime, what they really mean is that they want to put a cap on salaries.”
It was classic Kirchnerism, a speech to re-write history. She told listeners to remember that the first advertisements for goods denominated in dollars only appeared in the 1970s. She asked them to note that the country was consuming more than it was exporting.
Her message was that we — Argentinians — do not need the world.
“There used to be a law,” she said with clear sarcasm, “a law that guaranteed that they would give me one dollar for one peso. I don’t know if you remember… the Law of Intangibility of Deposits. They thew it out… but you know what, the economy is not made by laws. The person that believes they’ll have a better salary, that they’ll have a home, or that they’ll have family security from a law is wrong. They have social benefits through the project of a country that has a political economy and a conviction to serve the interests of the country.”
This is the part of the speech when people started to stand up and cheer. And then she really went off, bringing up the Argentine warship, The Libertad, that hedge fund manager Paul Singer impounded last year as collateral for the country’s debts.
Argentina came through that, she said, because it is a country that looks out for itself.
“Because of that,” she continued to more adulation, “when we had the issue with our the ‘The Liberty”, we held on, and we didn’t give an inch to the vultures. When others said, ‘pay the vultures’ to recuperate ‘The Liberty’… to recuperate it with dishonor? Never. And as an Argentine, and the commander of the armed forces, we could only get it back with honour. And for that, Argentines, we must understand that there is a lot at stake.”
The crowd went nuts. You have to admit, she’s pretty good.
Meanwhile, as she spoke, the Buenos Aires Herald reports that there was a flurry of dollar buying in the underground Argentine “blue market” dollar exchange.
So she’s good, but not that good.
If you love a little Latin American populist anger (and you speak Spanish) you can watch the speech below: