The economic crisis and the pandemic tinge the 2021 election campaign in Argentina. 20 years after the events of December 2001 it is worth asking about their imprint, lessons, and projection for the future. Is a cycle coming to an end?
Following the collapse of left-wing populist movements in Latin America, neoliberal and authoritarian governments have spread all over the region. Clear examples of this resurgence are Bolsonaro in Brazil, Lenin Moreno in Ecuador, and Mauricio Macri in Argentina, not to mention the authoritarian drift of Nicolás Maduro’s government in Venezuela. This authoritarian turn at the institutional-political level has been accompanied by ideological changes in public and ‘non-public’ opinion: hate speech, anti-egalitarian discourses, authoritarian values, and an individualistic common sense. Of course, these discourses existed in the past too, but their virulence and the new constellations in which they are inscribed represent an ideological novelty in the Latin American political landscape.
The mandatory lockdown and social distancing decreed by the National Government of the Argentine Republic in Decree No. 297/2020 has been the policy designed to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This way of addressing the crisis in a timely and initially efficient manner, in contrast to other countries in the region, gained Argentina international recognition. Simultaneously, the new President of the Nation, Alberto Fernández from the Justicialist Party, (Partido Justicialista, PJ)—also known as the Peronist movement—managed to get a very high level of support from the population by promoting this set of measures to deal with the pandemic. This entailed health, social, and economic measures to protect the most vulnerable sectors and workers.
The COVID-19 crisis has put our whole lives on pause. Not because life has stopped or ended but because our world as we knew it seems to be coming to an end. We are at the beginning of a new era. This is a capitalist crisis, not a health crisis. This is the latest crisis in the era of capital; the Capitalocene has put us on the verge of annihilation. This crisis has hit us hard and in multiple ways. The resulting global financial crash is hitting every territory, country, and city in a different way. Changes abound in our way of living and working. Social reproduction as a whole is changing and so are social struggles.
In late April, the International Foundation for Freedom, headed by Peruvian Literature Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, issued a statement warning against the rise of authoritarianism in Latin America due to the coronavirus pandemic. Among the signatories were well-known defenders of neoliberal ideas in Latin America and Spain, such as Vargas Llosa himself and the former presidents Mauricio Macri (Argentina), José María Aznar (Spain), and Alvaro Uribe (Colombia). The statement expressed concern “about the measures taken in some countries that have indefinitely restricted basic freedoms and rights” in the name of the combatting the virus.