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December 11, 2020, will go down in the history of Argentina as the day when a majority representing the progressive government of Alberto Fernández took the first step toward legalizing abortion as a “right” and a “public health” issue. With 131 votes in favor, 117 against and 6 abstentions, legal abortion was approved in the Lower House.
However, in politics, as in life, there are always two sides. If we speak of majorities, it is because there is a minority. Officialists (majority) and opponents (minority), both approve or delegitimize the bills they have presented. In that sense, it was not surprising that the majority (always representing a vernacular and globalist left) voted in favor of legalizing abortion in Argentina. What is worrying is how the minority has acted. A minority that when it has to raise its voice, keeps quiet; when it has to oppose, it negotiates, and by negotiating lukewarmly ends up surrendering its will.
A clear example in this respect is that of the opposition deputy belonging to the Misiones Concord Front when in 2018 she voted against the bill:
While this year she turned around:
I’s a law of nature
It is a law of life that when something moves backwards, something else moves forward. It is simple. In Argentina, the political opposition went withdrew, giving up so much space that its figure has slowly disappeared ending up becoming very accommodating. And this time has not been an exception.
President Alberto Fernández promised during his election campaign that he would finally get the abortion legalization bill passed with the necessary majority to finally become law. “Legal, safe and free abortion,” more than a phrase or slogan, was one of the main tenets of his campaign.
But this year 2020 has been capricious with everyone, and politicians were no exception. Fernández could not see clear to send in the bill at the beginning of the year, as he had to deal with “other issues” a little more pressing than attending to this on account of the pandemic.
Thus, he began his presidential term. With a pandemic on his hands, he had no better idea than to present the pandemic as a dichotomous choice between “life and the economy”-as if they were mutually exclusive concepts and not concomitant. The abortion project had to wait. And it waited until today when finally Alberto reached his goal. Although it is not yet law (because it was only passed in one of the two houses), he did manage to take one step ahead in the legalization of abortion. But at what cost?
And now comes the showy, comical part, and that is that the price that winning implies, sometimes you have to lose. Let’s review some figures from Fernández’s presidential term, who has only been in power for a year: “An economy that falls gets back up, but a life that is lost is not recovered anymore,” he said in mid-March.
According to the latest report presented by the Argentine Catholic University (UCA), entitled “Poverty plus poverty: deterioration of economic subsistence conditions in times of pandemic”, in Argentina during the second quarter, “the rate of indigence was 13.6% and the poverty rate 47.2%. These rates represent an increase of 79% and 32%, respectively, with respect to the rates for the same period in 2019-“
For its part, the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INDEC), in its latest report noted that in the second quarter of 2020: “the income gap between the poorest and the richest increased. Thus, in the last 12 months, the gap in family income per person increased from 20 to 25 times between the richest 10% – who received 33.5% of the pie – and the poorest 10%, who received only 1.3%.”
In terms of the figures left by the pandemic, to date, Argentina is second in confirmed cases in Latin America. Brazil is first with 6,781,799 and Argentina is second with 1,482,216, followed by Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Chile. Similarly, Argentina ranks seventh in the world in terms of mortality caused by COVID-19 in a ranking of 150 countries.
In fact, while the Presidency of Alberto Fernández has half the country under the poverty line, and more than 40,000 deaths by COVID-19 (almost 900 inhabitants per million still not having passed the first wave and waiting for a second), his and others (the opposition) are busy approving a bill that not only forgets about the National Constitution and International Treaties on the protection of the Rights of the Child, but also does so at a time when there are children dying of malnutrition or the Chinese virus, in a country that used to be “the granary of the world.”
Last year, Fernández, in an interview, said that he “was in favor of decriminalization and legalization of abortion,” but that “they should debate it at that time because they did not have the votes.” In fact, it is shown that “the votes” are the only thing that matters for populists, because although now he could count on “the votes,” he does not have the conditions in the country to face a debate with the seriousness and the importance that it deserved and, much less, with the economic structure to do so.
How can we explain it?
Abysmal task. Populist leaders have the capacity to generate leadership because of their “charisma”, their “popular language”, their way of communicating ideas plainly. They generate symbolic representations with anything: with their voice, with their clothes, their posture. (Non-verbal and verbal communication). Their modus operandi is to co-opt or take over “social demands” – in Laclaunian terms – and transform them into a banner, a key point of their government. In a promise that may or may not be fulfilled.
Alberto found it difficult to fulfill that promise with the pandemic. But an unfulfilled promise is a guarantee of power. It is Pavlov’s “Classical Conditioning,” it is the system of “rewards and prizes. It’s tying the carrot to the donkey so that it keeps walking and doesn’t get tired or lie down.
For Alberto, “safe and free legal abortion” means absolutely nothing. Even Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, former president and current vice president with Fernández, has always been silent, never daring to say anything either for or against it. She could not spoil the relationship with Pope Francis. Indeed, she cunningly managed to slip away from the subject. But that Argentina of a year ago is not the same as today. Today’s Argentina urgently needed a theme or topic that would foolishly surpass the figures of a country devastated by a virus and by more than 70 years of Peronism. A great smokescreen.
Abortion for Alberto is a card up his sleeve when he needs it: to win an election, to keep the population locked up for 9 months, not to face the almost 48% of people immersed in poverty, to cyber-patrol the civilian population, to issue more money, to gain time. That’s it. To generate, maintain or recover legitimacy. In truth, the abortion project is a carrot which Alberto uses to cradle and shepherd the masses.
The most serious problem in all of all this is that lives are at stake (the lives that poverty takes and the lives that will not be born), it is not a project to raise taxes. But that is purely and exclusively the responsibility of leftist populism. And they will have to live with that.
It’s as if they were telling us, for example, the following: “I understand that we have 48% poor people, but I promised them abortion and I’m keeping that promise, we’ll see later how we can solve the other problem. Let’s focus, for now, on the fact that I’m the great deliverer.”
You are the phenomenon
And so we have to read or listen to sad and decadent statements such as that of Argentina’s Minister of Health, Ginés González García who said that: “Here we do not have two lives as some say: it is only one person, and the other is a phenomenon that is not correctly being used. If this were not the case we would be facing the greatest genocide ever.”
But the non-globalists, faced with this bleak picture, still have a very little hope. And it is the following: This same House of Representatives that today approved the law, last year truncated it, and after not getting the majority to move from one House to the other, never reached the Upper House (Senate). There is, therefore, the possibility -however minimal and remote it may be- that now the process will turn out to be the opposite, as the abortion bill will be truncated again, but this time by the Senate.
In Argentina almost half of the country does not have enough to eat, but perhaps they will have abortion. Terrific.
Agustina Blanco, journalist. Graduate in Social Communication. She has written for several national and international media. Researcher of the Fundación LIBRE. Lives in Argentina // Agustina es periodista. Licenciada en Comunicación Social. Ha escrito para diversos medios nacionales e internacionales. Investigadora de la Fundación LIBRE. Vive en Argentina.