When President Macri won the bid for this year’s G20 summit, in 2016, shortly after being inaugurated, he could never have predicted the economic and political climate he would be facing when it eventually rolled around.
The Argentine peso has fallen by more than 50% against the US dollar this year, inflation rates are soaring and for many, the blame lies at Macri’s feet. As we near the end of November, the peso has dropped again by 3%, the greatest decline since the IMF bailout of $57.1 billion came into effect almost a month before. The economy has slowed as a pivotal week for Argentina begins.
Following the violence of last year’s summit in Hamburg, the police and security forces are taking precautions, as anti-capitalist protestors assemble ahead of this weekend’s G20 summit. The city is expecting around 8,000 visitors and November 30 has been established as a one-off public holiday. In a nation where Mondays and Fridays often fall victim to both bank holidays and strikes, the capital will once again grind to a halt. Services such as public transport won’t be operating, in addition to other labour strikes this week, and businesses will suffer.
Last week, Buenos Aires hosted the ‘Global Forum of Critical Thinking’. The press called it the ‘anti-summit’ to the G20. Former President Kirchner, who in September was indicted on corruption charges, lead a panel against neo-liberalism on the opening day of the forum. In rallying up anti-government sentiment, she has brought tensions closer to boiling point.
But even before world leaders and the ensuing chaos descend on the capital, popular unrest is already rife. The political climate is very tense; Macri is the villainous face of austerity and held responsible for the crisis. Graffiti across the city reads ‘Out Macri! Out IMF!’, in toilet cubicles and on street corners alike. You can imagine how impressed Argentines are with his government urging the 12 million people who call Buenos Aires home to get out of the city for the long weekend as he spends public money to act as host for the circus that is global politics.
The tension is compounded by the doubts regarding the police force’s capabilities to deal with civil unrest following the suspension of the highly anticipated second leg of the Copa Libertadores final on Saturday. It was to be ‘the final to end all finals’ between River Plate and Boca Juniors, the fiercest derby in existence, ‘el superclásico’. Street violence was certain but what followed was a shock to all. The bus transporting the Boca players to River’s home ground came under attack from the police’s use of tear gas complicated the situation leaving Boca players injured before even entering the stadium. While the drama momentarily took the media heat off the G20 summit, for many it consolidated the shameful and embarrassing state of affairs; the nature of the attack being a microcosm of Argentine society.
So, in light of this all, what does Macri hope to achieve? Argentina hosting the summit was supposed to signal to the international community that they could have a seat at the big boys’ table. Many are asking if it’s even a table worth sitting at, myself and ex-President Kirchner both. Meanwhile, others find it laughable that their government expect foreigners to see anything other than the spectacle they see themselves. The fear and frustration is tangible. Those who can are leaving the city, while others take to the streets, but what is certain is that the majority just want the chaos to stop.