Assignment: Argentina’s Economy
By all accounts, Cristina Kirchner mismanaged Argentina’s economy, running up big deficits year after year and b
Kirchner used a 1983 truth-in-advertising law dating back to the days of military dictatorship to levy stiff fines on maverick economists for allegedly misleading consumers and deployed the national tax agency against some of her critics (tax evasion is common in Argentina).
Mass demonstrations in 2013-2014 attested to her unpopularity. For most Argentines, the presidential election scheduled for 2015 could not come too soon.
orrowing heavily. The inflation rate soared from 28% in 2013 to more than 40% in 2014, and real wages were declining. Car sales dropped 35$ and spending at supermarkets fell by more than 4%. When consumers start cutting back on groceries, it’s a sure sign of hard times—an economy teetering on the brink of a deep recession. Another ominous sign: Argentina defaulted on its public debt in mid-2014. The Economist Intelligence Unit described Argentina as “a time bomb with multiple fuses.”
The problems facing Brazil and Argentina are fairly typical for the region as a whole. In Latin America, political reforms have often proven easier to implement than economic reforms. The reasons are many and varied, but the most intractable problems are rooted in a history of injustice and extreme inequality. The potential for social and political instability inherent in such conditions goes far to explaining the appeal of radical populist and socialist ideas, as evidenced in the rise to power of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia, as well as the persistence of violent Marxist and Maoist insurgent groups, most notably in Colombia and Peru.
Historically, Mexico exemplifies a contradiction common throughout Latin America—a yearning for a “man on horseback” to lead a popular revolution coexisting with an authoritarian regime disguised as a republic. On paper, Mexico has been a liberal democracy since World War I. In reality, competitive elections in Mexico were a pipedream until the year 2000 when, after decades of one-party rule under the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Mexican voters were given a real choice. The result was a first: opposition candidate Vicente Fox, representing the National Action Party (PAN), won in a runoff election and the results were allowed to stand.
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