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7/16/08

SoyaWars™ : Looks like the gov't has won


Here's a photo of Senator Ramon "famous for 15 minutes" Saadi. It's highly likely you've never heard of him and after tonight never will again, but he's enjoying his place in the Argentine firmament right now. Saadi was one of the key "undecided" votes in the Senate debate, and he has just pledged to vote with the gov't and for the export tax law as stands. With his vote, the vote stands at 36 to 35, with just one undecided senator left to make up their mind (though all signs point to the gov't baggin this last vote, too). So some two hours before the final votes are cast (it's due around midnight tonight Argentina time), the gov't seems to have won the day by a 37-35 margin. Even if it goes 36-36, it would be a tsunami-sized shock if soon to be ex-Veep Cobos voted against los Kirchner as the official tie-breaker vote.

So if, as looks most likely, the motion is carried 37-35, the tax will have the stamp of democratic approval (whatever that means). The agro boyz may not like it, but by backing down and sending the law to congress, Klishtina has got what she wanted this time.

I say "this time", because although the gov't has won a battle, the Kirchner franchise has taken an almighty beating. The Kirchners have been seriously damaged by this whole saga, and importantly have pushed away a large faction of the more traditional Peronist supporters into the waiting arms of Eduardo Duhalde. Financially the country has suffered through all this, too. Country risk is at new highs, production has been interrrupted and consumer spending is down. The stock market has been ravaged by an investment community that has simply turned its back on the country. Today, the Merval list is propped up on the globalized props of Petrobras and Teneris, and without those companies it would be hitting embarrassing lows.

Klishtina's best hope now is to make sure the country really benefits financially and socially from the extra fiscal income that will come from agro, for example via the much publicized hospitals, housing and roads programs that are to be funded by the extra tranche of grains tax. The pressure is on her government to provide for its descamisados, and with congressional elections a little more than a year away the clock is running.

Charles de Gaulle's famous phrase about Brazil not being a serious country seems to fit Argentina better these days.

UPDATE: 1:40am in Argentina, there are still two or three speeches left to make from the floor, but the big news is that it looks like we have a 36-36 tie on our hands. If so, it'll all be on Veep Cobos as the tie-breaking vote. It's a close on cert that he votes with the gov't but there's just a sneaking outside chance that he'll cause a shitstorm of monumental proportions by going with the agro side. Whatever...rivetting stuff on live TV (if you are into a bunch of old men saying the same thing 36 different ways, that is)