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The throngs that crowded Buenos Aires and other Argentine cities after the South American country’s World Cup victory testified to a vibrant country that can field world-class athletic teams, as a photo essay in the Atlantic portrayed. But the unorganized jubilation also led to unfortunate consequences.
As the Athletic wrote, some Argentina fans were injured in the chaos. Racist effigies of French striker Kylian Mbappé, who is Black, also showed up during the celebrations. Then, as millions of people blocked streets, waving the county’s blue and white colors, the team’s players, embarrassingly, had to use helicopters to pass across the city as an aerial parade. “The world champions are flying over the whole route on helicopters because it was impossible to continue by land due to the explosion of people’s happiness,” a government spokesman wrote on social media, according to the Associated Press.
The World Cup victory allowed Argentines to briefly forget how toxic politics and economic mismanagement have bedeviled their country for decades. Now they are back to seeking a more stable government and economy. It’s too familiar a quest.
In early December, a court sentenced Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to six years in jail on corruption charges and banned her from running again for public office, reported Reuters. She was found guilty of giving millions in public cash to a business associate for construction works in Patagonia in southern Argentina, the New York Times added. A former president and left-wing populist who served from 2007 to 2015, Fernández denied the accusations, saying the court didn’t give her a fair hearing and the charges are politically motivated.
Irregularities arguably occurred during the trial. A judge involved in the case, for instance, joined other judicial officials and well-known businessmen on a private jet trip to the ranch of British tycoon Joe Lewis, an ally of Fernández’s political rival, former conservative President Mauricio Macri.
Fernández may not go to jail. As a vice president and senator, she enjoys legal immunity under Argentine law. She will also almost certainly appeal the decision, a process that could take years. Her conviction, however, “upends” Argentine politics, the Guardian wrote. Soon after the ruling, for example, she said she would not run for president in 2023. That paves the way for incumbent President Alberto Fernández – not related to the vice president – to run for reelection, though it’s not clear he would win.
As the Economist noted, the political landscape is divided, while Peronism’s decline is interwoven with that of the country as a whole.
The Argentine economy is contracting as inflation approaches 100 percent, Bloomberg explained. Remarkably, that’s not an unheard-of state of affairs in the country, where free market boosters have long advocated for more business-friendly policies to help the economy, noted Axel Kaiser, a senior fellow at the Atlas Network’s Center for Latin America, in a Newsweek op-ed.
Argentina, a century ago, was one of the richest countries in the world. But for the 50 years, it has seen a steady decline interrupted by rebounds. Another rebound is what the Argentines are hoping for.
As team captain Lionel Messi showed, anything is possible.