Fernández distracts Argentines from inflation by putting Falklands on banknotes. Oh, wait…
When the Pope met Queen Elizabeth on Thursday, there was one thing – doubtless to Argentine President Cristina Fernández’s great dismay – which was not on the agenda: the Falkland Islands (or, as the Argentine Pope might have called them, Las Malvinas).
As if to make up for that omission, Fernández ensured the disputed territory’s continued presence in Argentines’ minds by printing a map of the archipelago on a new 50 peso note (worth about $8), with a stirring image of a gaucho who rose up against British rule in 1833 on the other side.
Fernández’s newfound taste for banknote diplomacy may reflect the failure of her efforts so far in Argentina’s long-running fight for the islands, with her confrontational approach yielding little progress as her eight-year stint as president comes to an end next year.
Still, that didn’t stop her from taking her verbal assaults to an entirely new level on Wednesday, stretching the boundaries of credibility when she described the Falklands as “a NATO nuclear base”.
It was an especially odd statement to make for someone who has supposedly embarked on a mission to normalise relations with the international community, which have been problematic ever since Argentina defaulted on almost $100bn of sovereign debt in 2001.
In recent months, Argentina’s government has done things many would have thought entirely improbable not so long ago, from reaching a deal with Repsol, to telling the truth (or something closer to it) about its national statistics. The government so enamoured of heteredox economic policy seemed to be taking leaves straight out of the IMF’s playbook when it devalued the peso in January, and cut subsidies last month.
But making antagonistic and fanciful remarks about NATO (of which Argentina is officially a strategic ally) doesn’t seem to square with Argentina’s strategy of “international financial normalisation” (not to mention that it represents something of a departure from previous arguments that the UK wants the Falklands for its oil resources, with Fernández remarking that its fishing income was “barely” enough to support the local population).
Argentina needs the support of NATO’s most powerful member, the US, in its fight against “holdout” creditors, and to reach an agreement with the Paris Club, the successful resolution of which would enable an eventual (and much-needed) return to the international capital markets.
In the meantime, Argentina has been rumoured to be seeking (or being offered?) financial support from the likes of Goldman Sachs to bolster its dangerously low level of its international reserves.
But perhaps trying to find coherence in Fernández’s policies is a fool’s game. Is there really a grand plan, or is she just rushing around putting out fires (and lighting a few while she’s at it) as and when necessary?
As far as banknotes are concerned, beyondbrics wonders whether Fernández might not have done better to introduce an entirely new denomination – a 200 peso note, say – and slap the Falklands design on Argentina’s new highest value note (after all, the biggest denomination at the moment of 100 pesos is worth just $16).
Wouldn’t that have been more provocative? Or perhaps it would have drawn too much attention to the raging inflation that is way above Las Malvinas on most Argentines’ list of grievances....fuente