Sergio Massa draws up plan to seduce Argentina's agricultural sector
Argentina’s economy minister and presidential hopeful for Unión por la Patria, Sergio Massa, has put a plan in motion to seduce different sectors – his latest focus is agriculture. Massa has closer ties with some sectors in particular, such as the unions of the General Labour Confederation (CGT) umbrella group, but the fiercest challenge is reconnecting Peronism with farming sectors and members of the farming value chain. The goal is to jump the ideological gate and be able to grab non-party votes, as farmers tend to vote yellow – and inside Massa’s campaign bunker they believe that there are conditions to leverage ministerial administration with the PASO primaries. Sources from the candidate’s sphere informed Perfil that the unprecedented participation in the traditional exposition which the Argentine Rural Society (SRA, in its Spanish acronym) conducts every year in Palermo was designed with “a solid background that guaranteed a warm welcome” by farmers. Massa broke a record of nearly 34 years of absence of a Peronist in that habitat. Only Carlos Menem, in his canvassing race in 1989, had a rural lunch. The last major Peronist player who had been in the fairground was Néstor Kirchner, when in 2004 and 2003 he toured the grounds, although he never went up on the official box. Export duties have always been a bone of contention, and Resolution 125/2008 finally broke down the relationship. “There hasn’t been a single tractor parade or other kind of protest against the Government, despite the crisis generated by the drought in the farming sector. This was thanks to our presence with direct aid and no discrimination, a major source from the Economy Ministry told this publication. That piece of news has been circulating even before Massa was announced as a candidate and was one of the arguments weighing on the Peronist dream of remaining in power, despite the economic conflicts. The addition of former minister Julián Domínguez to the electoral team has also helped support the strategy of approaching the less ideological parts of the agricultural sector. In the last Cabinet meeting, the minister ordered his closest officials to activate the administration agenda, but also asked for measures to have a correlation with the electoral agenda and face-to-face meetings. The figure of Agriculture secretary Juan José Bahillo grew there, featuring technical work and liaising with representative organisations of the agricultural and industrial value chain. Massa, in the context of the week where it was decided to eliminate export duties from regional economies starting on September 1, put together the Farming and Food Sector Table, headed by Bahillo, but with the idea of technical campaign teams being able to make progress in central axes to create policies, especially those conceived for measures for the future. “Thinking about the farming sector 10 years from now, since, with the end of the drought, very good years are expected for the sector. That is why we spoke about which the main measures moving forward should be,” a source from the economic team told this publication. Technical players from Unión por la Patria on Monday launched a group to “work on the axes to develop all the activities comprising it in order to reach a comprehensive proposal for the election campaign,” as highlighted by a press release. Planning will include “weekly meetings and a meeting outside Buenos Aires in order to establish a roadmap for the proposals of the agricultural and industrial sector in light of the presidential primaries on August 13.” During his visit to the Rural Exposition, Massa assured that the development of new export sectors, such as energy and mining, will help alleviate pressure from farming liquidations. That is one of the vectors he has in mind to “think about the future,” as the saying goes among his people. That is why the farming roundtable, organised by Bahillo, together with the “contribution of each of the participants adding their vision on which the proposals should be for ranching, agriculture and regional economies in a context where better climate and macroeconomic conditions are forecast.” The strategy of the economic team is to associate the administration to the campaign, without violating the electoral code, which prohibits, since last week, the use of government announcements to seek votes. “The plan is for officials on the ground to make available to activists any technical knowledge on the initiatives benefitting people’s day-to-day lives and sectors of society” admitted another source. After the disruption generated by the delay in the initial deal with the International Monetary Fund, the ruling party’s leaders expect the campaign to create a “dynamic with greater agility.” “We have to seek votes [looking] upward. From neighbourhoods, towns, with an agenda of closeness. Because everyday people do not ask for an agreement with the Fund, they ask for lower prices, not to be killed when taking the bus, for transport to work, for their kids to have classes,” one of the members of the Unión por la Patria campaign team told this publication.