EspañolThe latest RELIAL conference in Mexico City drew quite the crowd from across Latin America, but it wasn’t the professional political class that caught my eye. Rather, it was a layman who had made the trip all the way from her home in Rosario, Argentina.
Lucrecia Pellerino, a dentist by trade, was there in late October to join with other liberals in the fight against the false promises of populism. In particular, she did not want Argentina to go the way of Venezuela, which has been the nation’s trajectory of late under President Cristina Kirchner.
She and I sat down to chat about what had pushed her to take time away from her busy schedule to become a pro bono activist with Fundación Bases. She now organizes events for the educational organization that promotes the “ideas of liberty and an open society.”
It began in 2002, she told me: “I was very annoyed with the politics of my country, and I began to participate [with my accountant husband] in the party of Ricardo López Murphy, which was a liberal party.”
But López Murphy subsequently lost his bid for the presidency in 2003, and the party is now defunct. In 2004, Pellerino decided that the populace needed to be better educated on economic matters before political outcomes would change. She thus helped get Fundación Bases started, and they targeted university students and academics with their programs.
“I want an Argentina open to the world,” she said, as opposed to closed markets. In her work as a dentist and orthodontist, she feels the pain of hefty tariffs and quotas, since her materials are all imported and simply not made in Argentina. These costs inevitably get passed on to consumers who often cannot afford the inflated prices.
But taxes on the border are just the start. Business Insider recently reported that Argentina had the highest taxes on corporations in the world, to feed the ever-larger state apparatus and achieve what amounts to a ban on profits. In fact, the central government’s spending grew from 17 to 33 percent of the economy in just the last 10 years, under the late Nestor Kirchner and then his widow Cristina.
Regarding the path to Venezuela-style authoritarianism, Pellerino was upbeat about a win for opposition presidential-candidate Mauricio Macri, whom she supports. “Everyone is hopeful,” she said, that the populist “reign of the wannabe queen” Cristina Kirchner will not perpetuate on with future presidents. But Pellerino also made clear that her focus was not on politics as a long-term solution, and our own PanAm Post reporter Belén Marty has likewise commented that Macri is no liberal ideologue.