the vice president Cristina Kirchner and the senator Martin Lousteau They crossed paths this Thursday, May 11, in the Senate for call 125, a resolution that ended a before and after in the Kirchner government in 2008 and that, even today, continues to have consequences.
The conflict came to a head this afternoon, 15 years later, when Fernández de Kirchner told Lousteau: “Senator, you should have learned by now that a quorum is not required for today’s session, thank you.” The candidate for Head of Government did not take long to respond: “They should have learned economics too,” he reproached him. Given this, Cristina Kirchner insisted “You taught me, with the 125”.
It was a Tuesday, March 11, 2008, when the then Economy Minister Martín Lousteau announced “resolution 125”. Three months into the first presidency of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the tax announcement raised the withholding rate for the agricultural sector and marked the beginning of a conflict that would last four months and remain in the country’s political and economic history.
“You taught me with the 125”: the cross between Cristina Kirchner and Martín Lousteau in the Senate
In those years, the international prices of commodities (soybean, sunflower, corn and wheat) were high and the Government decided to capture part of that income. That decision, however, would generate a conflict that would last for 129 days and would forever change the fate of Kirchnerism and Argentine politics.
Resolution 125/2008, signed by the now vice-president and Alberto Fernandezwho was head of the Cabinet of Ministers, it was in a context of high commodity prices, when the mortgage crisis had already broken out in the United States, but had not yet become the global recession that would come to an end of year.
The price of a ton of soybeans in Chicago, which had fluctuated between 300 and 400 dollars in previous years, exceeded the 500 barrier and was close to 600. In 2002, Eduardo Duhalde had imposed fixed withholdings of around 20 % of agricultural exports, a decision that ended up being one of the engines of the subsequent recovery.
The target of the 125 at the time was to establish a formula that transforms the percentage withheld into mobile, in an inverse relationship with the price of grains. If the price in Chicago fell below $200 a ton, soybeans would have zero withholdings. But with the value at 400, that tax percentage would go to 35.75%. And with a price of 600, which seemed inevitable in those months, the retention rate reached 49.33%. In other words, the Government would keep half the value of what was produced, something that agricultural producers were not willing to accept.
“The 125” | The conflict that changed the fate of Kirchnerism
Resolution 125: strikes, cacerolazos and four months of conflict between the Kirchner government and the countryside
With the measure taken by Casa Rosada, the agricultural sector called for a strike. A week later, the Government was emphatic in the mouth of Martín Lousteau: “There will be no changes.”
On March 12, 2008, a grain marketing strike began, announced by the Agricultural Liaison Table that brought together the four main rural entities (Argentine Rural Society, Argentine Rural Confederations, Argentine Agrarian Federation and Coninagro).
Then came the roadblocks, the mobilizations, the cacerolazos in the City of Buenos Aires, the counter-marches of Kirchnerism and failed negotiations that only deepened the situation of tension.
The mobilizations and roadblocks in Buenos Aires, Santa Fe and Córdoba led to a strong shortage in the large cities. In Buenos Aires, “cacerolazos” were made in reaction to the speech and sectors related to the ruling party demonstrated in the Plaza de Mayo to “avoid a coup d’état”, as Luis D’Elía defined it.
The Government refused to modify the measure and the agricultural sector to abandon the pickets and blockades. At the end of March, a dialogue table was finally set up, but in the absence of agreements, the producers returned to the routes.
The unfortunate phrases of some leaders fomented anger in the agricultural sector. In those days, the President condemned the protest and referred to them as the “pickets of abundance” and assured that she was not going to allow herself to be “extorted.”
Julio Cobos against Cristina Kirchner: “I solved a conflict for her, not like her to Alberto Fernández, emptying him of power”
On April 2, the cuts were lifted to negotiate for 30 days, however, no agreement was reached on the underlying issue. The conflict continued, the Government prosecuted it and declared the rural entities for “violating the supply and security laws” and “preventing the normal operation of transport.”
The escalation of the problem led to the resignation of Economy Minister Martín Lousteau, who left office on April 25 and Carlos Fernández, a low-profile leader, took over in his place. After more than 60 days of conflict, it was not until May 19 that negotiations began to get back on track, although no agreement was reached.
As the days went by, the fight was the only topic to be discussed in Argentina and the Justicialista Party accused the camp of “coup plotting”. The agricultural leadership reacted by ratifying the grain strike and adding the interruption in the shipment of cattle to Liniers.
When the conflict was brought to justice, the arrests began. On May 30, eight ruralistas were arrested for blocking the roads and on Saturday, June 14, the Gendarmerie did the same with Alfredo de Angeli in Gualeguaychú, although he only appeared in prison for a few hours. The rural leader was one of the most important men in the conflict. That weekend the cacerolazos reached the Quinta de Olivos and former president Néstor Kirchner participated in a pro-government demonstration in Plaza de Mayo.
The “no positive” vote of Julio Cobos
Julio Cobos, Vice President of the Nation, had the Government that the issue was carried out in Congress to find a solution, something that Cristina Kirchner accepted on June 17 and announced it on national television.
In the Chamber of Deputies, the ruling party made the withholding bill effective with 129 votes in favor and 122 against. But the true turning point would be in the Upper House.
In the early morning of July 18, in the National Congress, the event had a new episode that would mark history: with a tied vote in the Senate, the decisive and “no-positive” vote was from Cobos, part of the ” radicalismo K”, who did not support the measure and resulted in a political defeat for Kirchnerism.
After an 18-hour debate, Cobos had to break the tie. The man from Mendoza rejected the project: “My vote is not positive,” he said. A day later, the government repealed the resolution and it is, to this day, one of the measures.
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