Chile’s next-door neighbor is in crisis – and is to elect a new president

BUENOS AIRES – Argentina, Chile´s neighbor and one of its most important allies, is suffering from a staggering economic crisis. President Mauricio Macri sees its popularity reaching lows, just when the Argentines elect a new president next year. One way or another, the crisis will be a central theme in the upcoming elections in Argentina.

Billion-dollar loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB), devaluation of the Argentine peso, high unemployment rates, an unpopular president and the worst of all: a scenario that is far from new for Argentina.

In 2001, Argentina suffered an economic crisis that led the country into the largest debt default in history, causing millions of Argentines to lose their job and to live in poverty.

The Kirchner presidents that came after the crisis (Nestor from 2003-2007, Cristina Fernandez from 2007-2015) are believed to have led Argentina out of that crisis – although according to followers of current president Macri it is the Kirchner administrations who are responsible for the current crisis.

Elections in a country in crisis

A country in crisis, a billion-dollar loan package with the IMF, two currency crises in one year that have caused the peso to lose around 50 percent of its value against the dollar, inflation that is expected to reach 45 percent in 2018: not the best portfolio for a president seeking re-election.

In October 2019, Argentina will choose a new president, just as so many other Latin-American countries have done for the last couple of months. Economically powerful countries such as Chile, Brazil and Colombia already elected new presidents – all on the (far)-right of the political spectrum.

But for Mauricio Macri, who is known for having a good relationship with Chilean president Sebastián Piñera, getting re-elected will be as hard as leading Argentina out of the current crisis.

A familiar face

Among the candidates for next years elections, a familiar face has announced she will be participating: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Although at the center of a large corruption scandal, Cristina Fernández is still popular among many working-class Argentines.

A recent poll showed that if the Argentines were to vote right now between Macri and Cristina Fernández, Macri would get around 30 percent of the votes, while Fernández would get nearly ten percent more. Even inside Macri´s own political party, there are other candidates that have showed their interest in running. Candidates that, according to the polls, are more popular than Macri.

Report shows surprisingly optimistic scenario for Argentina’s economy

Another presidential election in Latin-America

For Latin-America, the upcoming elections in Argentina will be key for the course of the continent in the next years. With Bolsonaro in Brazil, Duque in Colombia and Piñera in Chile, the biggest Latin-American countries are being governed by right-wing administrations.

An election of Fernández would mean some left-wing counterweight, while a re-election for Macri would mean a right-wing front in Latin-America whose political direction will be of major influence for large topics such as the crisis in Venezuela, the Chinese “Silk Road 2”, relationships with the Trump-administration and the Paris agreement.

For Chile, having Kirchner or Macri as next-door president will mean a drastic difference in diplomatic relations. Macri is the ideological ally, a tennis buddy and friend of Piñera, while the Chilean president said in a recent interview with La Tercera: “The socialism of Cristina Fernández has been a disaster”.

The lines have been drawn, the positions have been taken – Latin-America awaits another heated presidential election.

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