Tue, Aug 30, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Argentina ready to elect first rock ‘n’ roll vice president

The GUARDIAN, BUENOS AIRES

He thunders around Buenos Aires on a Harley-Davidson and likes nothing better than strapping on a Fender Telecaster guitar to jam with famous musicians. Despite appearances, however, Amado Boudou is Argentina’s 47-year-old minister of economy — and looks set to be voted the country’s first rock ’n’ roll vice president in the general elections in October.

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner took the country by surprise two months ago when she handpicked Boudou, often criticized for his lifestyle, as her running mate. However, the Fernandez-Boudou formula trounced the opposition, taking 50 percent of the vote in national primaries this month, against a mere 12 percent for runner-up Ricardo Alfonsin of the Radical party.

“Rock helps me communicate directly with the people because rock doesn’t lie, and people are fed up with lying politicians,” said Boudou, whose campaign trail with the famous Argentine band Mancha de Rolando in tow resembles a rock tour more than election politics.

Boudou astonished his free-market colleagues at the conservative Cema economics university where he once taught by espousing the progressive policies introduced in 2003 by the then-Argentine president Nestor Kirchner, the current president’s former husband, who died suddenly of a heart attack last year.

Nestor Kirchner salvaged Argentina from its devastating 2002 financial crisis by boldly increasing government spending while restructuring a gargantuan foreign debt without the help of the IMF.

Boudou considers his controversial break with the IMF in 2005 as the key to Argentina’s consumption-based recovery. He likes to accompany that message with crashing guitar chords on his current election tour.

“Mister banker, give me back my money!” he sings to the crowds who turn up at his political rallies.

“We’re on tour with Amado and he’s a great musician,” said Manuel Quieto, the leader of Mancha de Rolando, a politically aware band that was riding high on a long string of hits before joining Boudou’s campaign.

Quieto said he supports Boudou’s brand of progressive economics.

“Calm down mini-fascists,” Quieto posted on his Facebook wall recently. “Your property is not at risk!”

Boudou scoffs at critics who see the last eight years of uninterrupted growth threatened in the medium term by a 25 percent inflation rate.

“In the medium or long term, we’ll all be dead,” Boudou said. “Let’s deal with the problems at hand.”

These include improved but still worrying poverty and unemployment indices, for which Kirchner has implemented an ambitious social spending program. It has been financed in part by the nationalization of US$30 billion from private pension funds engineered by Boudou in 2008.

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