Argentina’s Peronist reboot

NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: changing politics in Argentina.

The South American country swore in a new president on Tuesday. Alberto Fernández is from the country’s center-left Peronist movement. It takes its name from former president Juan Peron whose ideology took hold in the 1940s. You may remember, his wife Eva Peron became the subject of the popular musical Evita.

MARY REICHARD, HOST:Peronist policies have changed over time. But they are basically left-leaning and trend toward social justice and economic nationalism. That puts Argentina at odds with the current conservative political trend sweeping South America.

Joining us now to talk about what that means for the region and U.S. policy there is Robert Lloyd. He teaches political science and global development at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. He’s also dean of the School of Arts & Sciences there. Thanks so much for joining us today!

ROBERT LLOYD, GUEST: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

REICHARD: Peronism has a long history in Argentina. But it fell out of favor for a few years under the outgoing president, Mauricio Macri. What caused voters to return to it in this latest election?

ROBERT LLOYD, GUEST: Yes, I think one of the interesting things about the dynamic there is Argentina used to be per capita one of the richest countries in the world if you look back at the early 1900s. Peronism came in in the 1940s and moving forward to varying degrees each decade, which always pushed a very strong populism, concern for the poor, social services, state intervention, and the economy. That was alternating with military rule, which also sort of stressed intervention in the economy. The political liberalization that started following at the end of the Cold War pushed Argentina into more of a free market direction with some economic success. At the same time, there’s a very strong political culture in the country of state intervention. And one of the reasons that Macri, the former president, had his challenges is he was trying to liberalize the economy, but he didn’t as much. So in many ways they got all the negative outcomes of state intervention, but they didn’t get the positive benefits that would have come from deregulation of the economy. So, people felt like they were repudiated by their outcome. So, Argentina in many ways is going back to the political norm, which is a stronger, sort of center-left state intervention. And some of those very policies are what got Argentina where it is in the first place.

REICHARD: Other major players in South America—Chile, Bolivia, and Brazil—are trending in the other direction, politically speaking. How will Argentina’s return to leftist policies affect relationships with these other countries?

LLOYD: Yes. In Latin America, there are two trends going on. There’s been sort of the center-right governments and there’s the center-left governments. And they switch around from time to time, say, in places like Brazil or Argentina, Chile. So, working as a whole, it’s made it a challenge, for instance, for Latin Americans and for the United States involvement in the Organization of American States, to forge sort of common policies. There’s something called the Washington consensus, which is a set of policy prescriptions for trade, free trade, open markets, and that’s faced some opposition when you have these leftist-center governments that come in and are skeptical of basically neo-liberal economic and political policies.

REICHARD: One of the biggest conflicts in South America right now, as you know, is in Venezuela. Nicolas Maduro is a socialist strongman who remains in power despite efforts to remove him. Will Argentina’s new regime have any effect on that situation?

LLOYD: The incoming government, one would expect it to be generally more sympathetic to Maduro and Venezuela and a little more of a challenge to develop Latin American, North American responses to how to deal with the ongoing crisis there, which is continuing. 

REICHARD:  Let’s talk about Argentina and the United States. How do you think American policy toward that region will change given this new dynamic with new President Fernandez?

LLOYD: The primary interest of the United States with Argentina has always been to have good relationships with the country. The challenge will be the United States will continue to favor freer markets, political liberalization. At the same time, the United States—both on the political left and the political right—itself is going through a populous stage of history right now with both the Democratic and Republican parties being more trade protectionist than before in favoring stronger state intervention. So, it’s kind of an interesting twist on the past. When that Washington Consensus, which came out of Washington—which was free trade, neo-liberal policies—now there’s some similarity in terms of some of the rhetoric, at least, in this country and in Argentina.

REICHARD: Professor Robert Lloyd teaches political science and global development at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Thanks for coming on the program!

LLOYD: You’re welcome.

(AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko) Presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez flashes a “vee” at supporters at his closing campaign rally, in Mar Del Plata, Argentina, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “Argentina’s Peronist reboot

  1. Jonathan Holmes says:

    In the coverage of Argentina’s changing political climate, your guest professor Robert Lloyd inserted his own editorial comment about the direction of the US economic policy that is erroneous: he stated “United States…itself is going through a populous stage of history right now with both the Democratic and Republican parties being more trade protectionist than before in favoring stronger state intervention.”

    The US President has clearly and repeatedly stated that his goal is fair trade i.e. the same or no trade barriers are sought to replace current trade barriers that favor our trading partners and hurt US exporters.

    Any trade barriers that the president has erected are stated to be temporary until equal and reciprocal trading terms can be negotiated to replace current trade agreements that hurt the US economy, such as NAFTA and the current trade arrangements with China. Recent “trade protectionist” measures are a means to the end, being free trade.

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