Amid Economic Crisis, Peronists Return To Power In Argentina With Alberto Fernández As New President

Oct 28, 2019

Center-left candidate Alberto Fernández has been elected as Argentina’s new president in the hope he will restore the country’s economy. 

Fernández secured more than 45 percent of the vote needed to win and beat conservative outgoing president Mauricio Macri. Fernández ran as part of the Peronist party, which generally favors pro-worker policies. He's promising to rescue the country’s economy and improve the standard of living of residents through hire wages. 

Even before the election on Sunday night, polls predicted that Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri would be defeated. When Macri was elected in 2015, Argentines hoped the businessman could be the one to bring the economy back up and open the country to international investments. Instead, the Argentine peso has lost 35% of its value against the dollar and inflation and poverty rates are soaring. New president Fernández and his controversial vice presidential running mate, former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, will be sworn in on December 10. 

Benjamin Gedan served as South America director on the National Security Council in the Obama White House and is now the deputy director of the Latin American program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He’s written extensively on Argentina and its economic turmoil. Gedan followed the elections closely and joined Sundial, along with WLRN’s America’s Correspondent Tim Padgett, to discuss the future of Argentina and what it will mean for U.S. politics in Latin America.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity. 

WLRN: Who exactly is Alberto Fernandez?

GEDAN: He's a not very well known political operative in Argentina,  who served as chief of staff to Nestor Kirchner, former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's husband and predecessor. He briefly served as chief of staff to Cristina Fernandez de Kirschner and they had a very prominent falling out. He's been rather under the radar the last few years until he was plucked from obscurity by the former president to be her running mate.

What was his biggest campaign promise? What was he running on?

GEDAN: It's unclear he has much of a specific agenda of any kind. He had a lot of criticism of the management of Argentina's economy over the past few years and a lot of sort of basic populist promises to return Argentina to prosperity and increase consumer spending and employment, but not a lot of very specific policy ideas to rescue Argentina from what really is a disastrous economic situation.

Hundreds of Argentina flags wave in Miami Beach as the diaspora expresses their support for President Mauricio Macri.
Credit LAUTARO GRINSPAN / Miami Herald

Is it just about the economy?

PADGETT: It usually is in Argentina. In the past century or so, we've tended to go through these boom and bust cycles in Argentina. You have to remember, in terms of natural resources, what a wealthy country Argentina is: beef, soybeans and all kinds of other commodities. And the country tends to go through these boom and bust cycles where they have all these commodities windfalls that help governments really spend a lot on social programs, everything's looking great, but then all of this mismanagement, corruption sets in and everything goes south. Suddenly they'll turn to maybe a more conservative candidate to clean up the mess that the Peronist populace left and then that more conservative president won't be able to fix things and things will go south again and they'll turn again to the Peronist.

What do we know about the diaspora in South Florida and their feelings about the election?

PADGETT: Well, diasporas tend to be, especially here in South Florida, tend to be more politically conservative. They're the folks that are fleeing that disaster in countries like Argentina. I think they were hoping here that Macri would be able to clean up Cristina's mess more effectively than he did, but I think most of them understand why people voted again for the Peronist because Macri just wasn't able to clean up that mess.