Argentine social movements propose San Martín Plan to overcome extreme poverty post-COVID-19

Social leader Juan Grabois, in an interview with community media, detailed aspects of the plan which envisions the generation of 4 million jobs The plan envisions the creation of a fund which will set up 4,000 productive units

July 07, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Popular economy leader Juan Grabois speaks to workers about their conditions under the COVID-19 lockdown. Photo: Facebook Juan Grabois

Argentine social movements in May proposed the San Martín Plan to president Alberto Fernández as a way to reactivate the economy and generate jobs, especially considering the crisis due the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking to various community and alternative media projects, Argentine social leader Juan Grabois of the Union of Workers of the Popular Economy (UTEP) outlined the key aspects of the plan which envisions the creation of four million jobs. It also guarantees populational redistribution and the promotion of family agriculture on state land.

The project, which was supported by social and political leaders, intellectuals and scientists, calls for the creation of a fiduciary fund called “Mugica Fund.” The fund will support the setting up of 4,000 productive units across the country.

The work in the productive units would be carried out by “community-run committees” that would comprise different social movements that are present in the area, as well as other fundamental actors, such as neighborhood churches and the municipalities themselves.

The initiative that Grabois himself has called the “Creole Marshall Plan” requires an investment of $750,000 a year for at least four years. While this may sound like a large amount, it is in fact only 2% of the national GDP.

Argentine social movements are concerned that poverty and hunger will reach unimaginable heights after the COVID-19 pandemic passes its peak in Argentina. This is why the movements are already emphasizing the need to think of structural policies that would not only provide relief to the working class but also allow people to live with dignity.

Grabois sees two major obstacles to taking the plan forward. One is related to the sector of concentrated economic power, “that does not want to lose any privileges.” The other has to do with a certain political structure of “control and order” and does not want to coordinate with the social movements in their territory.

“The pandemic also shows us the invisible reality in the big cities. Recovering the territory for the Argentinian people is an absolute priority,” said Grabois.

San Martín Plan and Argentinian debt

Grabois later referred to the ongoing negotiations with regard to foreign debt and addressed the question of if this would potentially endanger the Plan. The Argentine government continues negotiating in a race against the clock with the principle bond holders, but an agreement is yet to be reached.

Without an agreement, the country would default, which would put it in a tight situation. However, Grabois believes there is “something worse” than this possibility.

“It is impossible to tie [the San Martín Plan] to the negotiation of the debt. There are two solutions [with the debt] that are not so bad and one that is very bad: one is to arrive at an agreement with relief on a big part [of the debt], so 50% that is not paid back for three years. That is a generous agreement. The other is a default. These are the two acceptable solutions,” Grabois explained.

“The unacceptable option is to make a bad agreement, to impose an adjustment that would impede the national reconstruction policies from being carried out,” he added.

This is why social movements seek to implement the San Martín Plan immediately. “We cannot wait any longer, the social context calls for this urgently,” said Grabois. He predicted that the poverty level after the pandemic will be around 50%.

“It is a very challenging situation. Nobody knows exactly what will happen. In this context, we want to intervene. Among social movements, there are differences with regard to how much tension we can deal with. When one gets angry with Alberto, they have to look at a photo of Macri and the anger goes away quickly,” the social leader responded.

“However, our militant generation cannot settle for ‘It could be worse.’ We support the implementation of the tax on large fortunes, because if this project fails, we will have a very big problem,” explained Grabois. He was discussing the possible “neoliberal restructuring” in case that the progressive government of Alberto Fernández is weakened.

Grabois cited the example of the expropriation of Vicentín to illustrate the idea. The grain company filed for bankruptcy in February this year, after having received a loan of 18,500 million Argentine pesos (309.8 billion US dollars) from the Macri government in November last year.

The Justice department is now investigating this sum to determine if it was used for productive measures or if it was looted just a few days before the ex-president had to leave office after losing the elections.