Something holds the spell. When the one she calls is Cristina, the economists -be they from the school they are from- leave everything of her and attend to see her. Or they impasse their schedules and plunge into long phone conversations. If necessary they interrupt a meeting and go away to talk to her. Several of her have it scheduled on her cell phone with a nickname that sums it all up: “The boss”.
“The boss” is restless. In her Senate office she has a map to monitor the economy. She updates data in real time and reworks concepts that go beyond those defended by her trusted economists. That bubble burst long ago. The depth of the crisis forced her to break down the fourth wall. In recent days he consulted at least half a dozen economists. From Martín Redrado, with whom he spoke by phone on Monday, to Emmanuel Álvarez Agis, with whom he met in person. In between, he talked almost daily with Axel Kicillof and maintained contact with Hernán Letcher and Felisa Miceli. There were also emissaries from the Patria Institute who contacted other former ministers and former presidents of the Central Bank, such as Juan Carlos Fábrega.
—What worries Cristina the most? Clarín asked one of those economists.
—Everything, but she’s obsessed with the level of net reserves. Question about the liquidation of exports, about “false” imports, about the monetary issue, about the evolution of the exchange rate gap, about the status of the agreement with the Fund and about how much money is spent on services, imports and cancellation of private debt. She is very fine with numbers. You cannot answer with estimates. You want precision.
The vice president consults something else. She fears something else, strictly speaking: that the imbalances and the perfect storm that, according to her, are building the Martín Guzmán-Miguel Ángel Pesce binomial will lead Argentina to a sudden devaluation that ends up destroying an inflationary process that is already very high. “That’s why his first obsession is to end the national sport of taking dollars from the Central,” says one of his collaborators. Another adviser, an economist well identified with the former president, adds: “It is sensible that Cristina thinks of a devaluation by the market. It’s a reasonable assessment from anyone who reads economics well. The dynamics of the reserves is scandalous”.
The latest movement in the markets sharpened Cristina’s negative thoughts, which at times tries to stop as if it were not a central part of the project. Bonds in pesos that adjust for inflation sank 15% due to fears that the Government could not continue refinancing and investors went to the dollar, which jumped to $ 240 in cash, the one used by companies. The Central Bank intervened with $150,000 million to buy bonds so that they would stop falling and raised the market interest rate from 49 to 52%. But even so he could not accumulate reserves.
In three days it had to sell US$400 million to cover the higher energy imports. With soybeans at 650 dollars a ton, with record settlements in the field and in front of the eyes of the IMF, which conditions the next disbursements, among other items, to the Central improving the recomposition of dollars.
The cristinistas believe that Alberto Fernández underestimates the situation and that in Balcarce 50 they are entwined in a sterile debate on whether or not to reinforce the exchange rate. Gabriela Cerruti ruled it out, on behalf of Guzmán. Daniel Scioli quickly adopted an old Kirchnerist medicine: he said without flinching that in Argentina “there is no stocks or super stocks”, and warned about the danger of “pyromaniac firefighters” who speculate in the market.
Pesce also broke the silence to defend his management and assumed that destabilization “maneuvers” are taking place. For the head of the Central there are problems, but the situation is not so dramatic: he assured an important minister that exports could climb this year to almost 100 billion dollars. They would be quite a feat, but will they be enough?
Cristina continues to think that elephants pass by Pesce. The economist’s environment, annoyed by the reports, wanted to know if his criticism was really as severe as the media say. The answer was that he better concentrate on reaching an agreement with Guzmán to cool down inflation. Pesce and Guzmán have differences, each time more evident and each time more damaging for the economic team.
Christianity calls for forceful measures to prevent the rise in prices from continuing to devour parities and perforating the income of the informal sector. The measures are not, what is said, innovative. Rather, they respond to the classic decision-making system of the K era: better manage foreign trade, which paralyzes the domestic supply of wheat and meat; raising the withholdings strongly, in line with what Roberto Feletti asked for before saying goodbye; create a trust to subsidize domestic trade with contributions from exports; and a strict price control policy.
On this last point there is a hint of nostalgia: they claim more advertising of Care Prices and the presence of militants in supermarkets to check that there are no missing products; At the same time, they ask that the National Price Observatory be recreated to monitor production, distribution and marketing chains.
In some areas of Guzmán’s staff they maintain that Cristina he stayed in an Argentina and in a world that no longer exists. “It is not like when she governed and not only because of the war”, they trust, which is a bit what Alberto Fernández himself maintains. A way of saying, also, that the current administration inherited a double trap in the face of a more complex world: the imbalances of the K period, so often cited by Alberto when he was on the plain, and the 53.8% inflation that Mauricio Macri left in 2019.
The Government deals daily with the economy, but adds unexpected problems of other kinds. The investigation into the flight of Iranians and Venezuelans is one. It generated new internal tensions between the new head of the AFI, Agustín Rossi; the Minister of Security, Aníbal Fernández; and among the officials who respond to the Minister of the Interior, Eduardo De Pedro. Sergio Massa also joined. Each one gave his vision of the facts. They were not coincidental.
“They wanted to show a dark movement that is not,” the President said yesterday, in his first reflection on the aircraft that is stranded in Ezeiza. Justice will determine to what extent Fernández is right and whether or not the flight included members of the Al Quds terrorist group. But the strategy of ignoring him recalled a position similar to the one he adopted before the Olivos Gate exploded. He used almost the same words. That time he denied that there were parties in Olivos and defined the case as “a cartoon” because all the meetings in Olivos, he said, were for work.
Alberto and Fabiola Yáñez have just approved an agreement to be dismissed. The Government seeks to turn the page, but it would not be as imminent as they had thought when the presidential couple offered to pay 3 million pesos to get rid of the issue. In the next few days, one of those accused of the party, Sofía Pacchi, will be investigated by Judge Lino Mirabelli.
Close to the president there were movements so that Pacchi would once again be represented by Juan Pablo Fioribello, Yáñez’s lawyer. Pacchi today is represented by Fernando Burlando. In the Executive they would seek that the former model agree to pay an economic fine in exchange for the case being closed. The woman was at the Casa Rosada on Thursday. Did she see herself with Fernández?
Alberto’s spokesmen mounted a discreet operation to deny the visit, trying not to make it too noticeable. Discretion is logical. It could be Pacchi herself who at some point airs that she actually had contacts at the top of the government. There would be evidence of his income. It is known, for example, that the woman reached the esplanade by car. There are even photos of the patent. The rush to get Pacchi away is notorious.
Pacchi went to Olivos in full confinement. She was one of Fabiola’s birthday guests and she has another 59 entries between 2020 and 2021. They say that, in truth, there were many more. Shortly after the scandal broke, Sofia’s contract with the State was interrupted. She went to rest in Ibiza.
When she came back, she wasn’t the same. She was angry and fought with Fabiola. She, and now not only her, know some secrets of the intimacy of power. What was happening and what was being talked about in the corridors of Olivos in full lockdown due to the pandemic. Who entered and who left. It was the ear of the first lady. Sofia knows a lot. Too much, perhaps.