Argentinean Vice President Cobos makes his bed

Argentine Senate Rejects Tax Increase on Agricultural Products

Setback for Cristina Fernández; the country’s Vice President breaks the tie with his vote

Stella Calloni – La Jornada

Translation: Machetera

Buenos Aires – July 17. In a hard ending and after more than 18 hours of discussion, in the early morning the Senate rejected the law that would establish an increase in taxes on exported agricultural products, thanks to a vote from the House president and government Vice President, Julio Cobos, who used his vote against the proposal, breaking a tie between the government and its opponents. Cobos stated that he was not going to resign his vice-presidency.

This evening, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner alluded to both the Vice President as well as the Peronist senators who voted against the official proposal, when she said that “with the eyes of the men and women of the people upon us, it’s good to know that we’ve never been traitors and that we will always choose an unwavering path: the representation of the interests of those with less and a return to being a link between society’s various sectors.”

She insisted that to do this, “often bumps up against interests, and the poor cannot simply be a matter of electoral discourse; they have to be a commitment in the government’s direction.”

She also said that “Some don’t understand what happened in last October’s elections (2007),” when she was elected president and Julio Cobos vice-president, “but now they’re going to figure it out.” She also stressed the support of other parties removed from Peronism, while “some that were with us defected.”

In these latest days, the government had moved ahead with the decision to accept the Senate resolution “whatever it might be.”

Cobos’s action was not a surprise, considering his relations with the agrarian leaders, but he felt that it “was the most difficult day of my life.”

This morning, the rural leaders met in the neighborhood of Palermo, celebrating the Senate rejection of the deductions, praising Vice President Cobos, and also showing their willingness to talk with the president.

Eduardo Buzzi, of the Agrarian Federation, Mario Llambías of the Rural Argentinean Confederations, and Luciano Miguens, of the Rural Society, said they would await a presidential meeting, but also demanded the repeal of Withholding Law 125.

The reactions of pro-governmental officials was varied. The head of the official bench in the Senate, Miguel Angel Pichetto, declared that Cobos’s vote was “incomprehensible” and stated that “history will judge him” for voting against a proposal of a government of which he is a part.

At the same time, the governor of Buenos Aires province, Daniel Scioli, warned that “there’s no need to over-dramatize the situation,” and said that the country had seen an exemplary demonstration of democratic action. “All the constitutional mechanisms worked as they should in a democracy that consolidates itself daily, and the institutions and separation of powers were strengthened (…) despite the conjectures that the Parliament was simply a rubber stamp for the Executive power and the speculations over the vote of certain legislators.”

However, the social, political and youth organizations that support the government felt deceived and there were incidents in front of the Congress this morning, where they expressed their indignation over what they considered “the betrayal” of certain pro-governmental senators and also for the means used by the rural constituents to pressure legislators and their families.

“Extortionary means” through “visits” to the homes of senators who represented interior provinces and live in cities or small towns, were mentioned, as well as the encirclement of certain homes in a menacing way.

This was the case with Senator Emilio Rached, of Santiago del Estero province, who had committed himself to backing the government with his vote, but while he was in the Senate, became aware that a group of rural constituents located his home in Pinto, 240 kilometers outside the capital of the province, and his mother, Fanny Simon, telephoning her to ask that he vote against the deductions.

This method was used against other mothers and wives of the senators and also against several deputies.

For her part, the Senator for the New Party from Corrientes province, Isabel Viudez, confirmed that she was thrown out of that group for voting in favor of the government proposal, and considered it an “unfortunate act of intolerance and pressure.”

The organizations allied with the government stressed that in the “most democratic and public [debate] on record in the history of the democratic transition, the government didn’t resort to fake deputies such as in the era of the Carlos Menem government, nor did it pay bribes as was denounced in the case of voting to approve the resisted Labor Reform under the government of the ex-president Fernando de la Rúa.”

Although the government setback was a blow to its sympathizers, today the analysis of many of its leaders is that the government attitude “overcame the greatest media manipulation of recent times, demonstrating true democratic will.”

This time, they said, “the greatest pressure came from the other side.”

In the evening, the government announced the re-nationalization of Aerolíneas Argentinas and Austral, privatized by Menem in the ’90’s.

Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

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