Before Jorge Bergoglio’s election as the first Latin American pope in 2013, Argentina was famous for many things: tango, its magnificent pampas, the beautiful late-nineteenth century architecture that marks much of Buenos Aires, to name just a few. Unfortunately, other things also come to mind: rampant and persistent corruption, extreme political instability, and, above all, the fact that Argentina is the twentieth century’s textbook-case of largely self-inflicted economic decline. Consider that as late as 1940, Argentina was the economic equal of Australia and Canada. Since then it’s been generally downhill.
During a recent trip to Argentina, however, I was immediately struck by the optimism that marked Argentines themselves. This contrasted with the widespread gloom visibly characterizing the country that I’d noticed on previous visits. One reason for the difference is that Argentina elected a non-Perónist to the presidency in November 2015, thus terminating 13 years of rule by the late Néstor Kirchner and his wife Cristina. They belonged to the wave of Latin American leftist-populists who came to power from the late-1990s onwards and who brought political and economic disarray in their wake.
Since assuming office, Argentina’s new President, Mauricio Macri, has sought to take the country in very different directions. He ended Argentina’s backing of the Chávista regime that has all but destroyed Venezuela. Macri is also exposing deep-seated corruption, the most notorious case thus far being a former Kirchner government official caught hiding several million US dollars in a convent. This has been accompanied by an effort to detoxify public discourse of the demagogic rhetoric that’s long plagued Argentine politics. Economically, Macri has started, albeit cautiously, moving Argentina away from its closed, highly-statist economic arrangements. This has included abolishing currency and capital controls as well as eliminating some price-controls, particular export taxes, and specific subsidies.
Read more at Catholic World Report.