With a speech that ignited polarization in Argentina, President Alberto Fernández opened this Monday (1st) the traditional opening session of the legislative year in Congress.
The president blamed Mauricio Macri’s previous administration for the economic recession – the country fell 10% in 2020 – and for external and internal debts, as well as attacking the opposition for not helping the recovery country or to fight the pandemic.
Regarding foreign policy, he referred to the Mercosur meeting which will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the bloc, at the end of March in Argentina, in person, and hailed what he called “the restoration of democracy” in Bolivia.
“In the region, we follow the coup d’état in Bolivia with concern, but today we celebrate that this country has regained its democracy,” he said.
The Congress was not completely complete, as it usually does every year. Due to the health crisis, many guests only appeared on screen. All ministers, Supreme Court justices, deputies and senators were present, virtually or real.
Fernández was widely applauded whenever he criticized the opposition, but also booed and attacked by members of Congress from other parties.
Upon his arrival, alongside the vice-president, Cristina Kirchner, he was criticized for the confinement imposed in the province of Formosa by the Peronist governor Gildo Insfrán. “Freedom for Formosa,” they shouted.
Cristina, the only one on the command line to enter without a mask, must have heard: “Put on your mask, obey the law”, by fiery MP Fernando Iglesias. There have also been war cries over the scandal of vaccine diversion for at least 70 employees or people close to the government.
“Serious mistakes have been made, which will be corrected immediately,” said the president, who also defended the quarantine and containment measures – according to him, without them “the health system would have collapsed”.
Fernández’s speech was very complimentary of his own handling of the economy and the pandemic. He said he would launch a plan to resume jobs and asked for a consensus on its approval, but did not say so. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 300,000 people have lost their jobs and the situation is worsening at a time when financial assistance to businesses and informal workers, which had been paid in recent months, will not be renewed.
Fernández asked Congress to speed up approval of the judicial reform, already underway, which will increase the number of courts and instances. The opposition believes that this is a maneuver to control this power and, thus, free Cristina Kirchner from the corruption processes she is facing.
The president also thanked Congress for passing the abortion law, which was initiated by the executive. “I have kept my word,” he said, referring to his defense of the legislation since the election campaign.
Regarding the resumption of trade, he said “things are going faster than imagined, construction has grown and so has trade. We hope to recover the lost jobs.”
Fernández also regretted the delay in vaccination against the coronavirus in the country, which he attributes to problems sending doses contracted with the Russian laboratory Gamaleya.
Regarding the debt to the IMF (International Monetary Fund), more than 44 billion dollars, Fernández blamed Macri for having requested the credit. But he said the renegotiation of the payment was going well. “We are in no hurry to negotiate, the dialogue is constructive and there is no more space to impose adjustments on the population,” he said. The deal will have to go through Congress after it closes.