September 2019

By Daniel P. Erikson and Willa Lerner

On August 11, Argentines went to the polls to cast their ballots in the presidential primary. The unexpected results upended Argentine financial markets, roiled society, and forced President Mauricio Macri to reorient his administration’s priorities ahead of the general election on October 27. In the midst of the tumult, Dan Erikson traveled to Buenos Aires to meet with Argentine congressional leaders, senior campaign policy advisors, and prominent business executives. The meetings, which included a conversation with Secretary of Foreign Trade Marisa Bircher, provided a unique opportunity to understand the goals and concerns of key figures in Argentine society and politics.

Heading into the primary weekend, opposition candidate Alberto Fernandez of the “Frente de Todos” (“Everyone’s Front”) coalition and his Vice-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner were expected to take the lead. Early polls suggested that current President Macri and his Vice-Presidential candidate Miguel Angel Pichetto, representing the “Juntos Por El Cambio” (“Together for Change”) coalition, would take a close second. The primary election served as a first face-off between all the candidates, offering valuable insight into the upcoming general election on October 27. In the general election, 45 percent of the vote or 40 percent of the vote with a 10-point lead is required for an outright win. In the event of a close race, a runoff will be held on November 24. Instead of the anticipated close primary results, Fernandez stunned pollsters by trouncing Macri—winning 47.7 percent of the vote to the latter’s 32.1 percent. If replicated in October, the 15-plus point difference would be more than enough for Fernandez to win the general election in a single round.

In addition to following political events in Argentina, during his trip Dan spoke with correspondent Laureano Izquierdo of InfoBAE, one of Argentina’s largest online news platforms. In a series of interviews, Dan highlighted the risk associated with growing Chinese influence in Latin America and addressed the origins of the current crisis in Venezuela. Dan also gave the inaugural beginning of term speech on the topic of “The United States, China, and Latin America: Is Cooperation Possible?” to more than 250 students at the University of Ezeiza, a public university where nearly 80 percent of students are the first in their families to attend college. His presentation offered students a chance to reflect on and debate how Latin America should engage with the United States and China, as well the best path forward for a country like Argentina that seeks positive ties with both nations.

As the future of Argentina continues to take shape in the next couple of months, Dan and the Blue Star Strategies Latin America team will continue to stay informed and engaged. Check out Dan’s Twitter feed, expert contributions in Axios, and future #BlueStarBrief Newsletters for updates.