Saturday, September 29, 2012
EVERY Argentine politician knows that clanging pots and pans are the sound of trouble. In 2001, after the government froze bank accounts, furious residents of Buenos Aires staged nightly cacerolazos (pot bangings) until the president resigned. On September 13th it was the turn of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the current president, to face the raucous music. Tens of thousands filled the capital’s streets wielding kitchen implements. Ms Fernández was in San Juan, a provincial capital, which saw a smaller protest.
Her aides dismissed the protesters as an unpatriotic elite. “They’re more concerned about what happens in Miami than in San Juan,” said Juan Manuel Abal Medina, the cabinet chief. Ms Fernández has weathered cacerolazos before. In 2008 farmers staged pot-clanking demonstrations after she tried to raise taxes on soyabean exports. She was re-elected three years later.
But the latest cacerolazo looks more like a turning point than a stumble. The main reason is that the economy has run out of steam. Between 2003 and 2011, Argentina’s annual average growth rate of 7.7% was Latin America’s second-highest. This year, even by the questionable official numbers, it is set to be the lowest (see chart).
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