Thursday, September 27, 2012
By Noelia Barral Grigera
“If inflation was really 25%, the country would explode.” From Washington, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner finally spoke about inflation in Argentina and tried out an emphatic defense of INDEC. Very relaxed, she said yesterday that “the economic reality” of the country “slams against the indices that the opposition proposes” and suggested that even in the United States the measures of price variations are not reliable.
The statements from the president came from questions from various students of Georgetown University, where Cristina inaugurated a chair about Argentina. In that scenario she again strongly criticized the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and reiterated her statements from Monday about the protests against her leadership: “It’s impossible for the government to please 100% of the population with the measures that it takes. Above all when those measures affect the privileged sectors.”
“In your country, it is said that a person can eat for six pesos and many people say that isn’t true, what is your response to them?” asked Nicole, a first year student. Cristina didn’t flinch. “That thing about the six pesos was absolutely denied. It’s a shame that you were not able to get truthful information,” she began to respond. Immediately, and showing that she was prepared for the occasion, she showed a copy of an article from El Cronista, reporting that the head of the city government, Mauricio Macri – whom she described as “one of the main opposition leaders” – estimated an inflation of 10% for next year in his budget bill.
“This is never going to make it to you, of course,” she said to the student, before asking a rhetorical question: “If inflation really was 25%, how did the economy grow 8.9% last year? I would love to invite you, Nicole, to Buenos Aires for you to see the shopping centers that are full. If these were really the numbers on inflation, the country would be exploding,” she argued.
“Where there is very high growth, there is a certain level of inflation. But not these inconsistent and absurd figures that some are publishing,” she argued.
In her defense of the INDEC numbers, not even the government of Barack Obama was spared. “Do you all really believe that the cost of living in the United States grows 2% per year?” she asked after consulting with the moderator about the inflationary level in that country. “Really,” she continued, “how much does your tuition go up, your bus tickets?” she asked, getting laughter of acknowledgement in the room. “There is a harshness with Argentina,” she concluded.
During her speech beforehand she also didn’t avoid criticizing the country to the north. She recalled the campaign of ex-ambassador Spruille Braden against former President Juan Peron. “Yes, those things happened. Today, if they are done, they are done more secretly,” she said ironically, before telling “a joke”, according to her. “The only place in the Americas where there are no coups is in the United States, and that is because there is no American embassy there,” she said. Then, she balanced the comment by praising the intervention of that country so that the last dictatorship freed disappeared detainees.
The six questions that the President responded to over one hour (after an initial address of 45 minutes) were all made by Georgetown students and included other issues, like her relations with the media in the country; her view of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela and international policy issues.
Also, Cristina again hit out against the IMF, which she accused of having a “position absolutely opposed to Argentina”; she said its head, Christine Lagarde, “has committed something foul, something criminal in Greece”; criticized the privatization process of the 1990s; denounced convertibility; bragged that the country is paying its debts “on time” and “without access to the capital markets”; and observed that the Argentine economy is “culturally dependent on the dollar.” She also briefly praised the unionized workers’ movement that, she said, allowed the country “to have the best distribution of wealth in Latin America, measure by measure.”