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Subsidies “Para la Patria!”?

January 31, 2010
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Don’t tease me, Cristina:

In response to a beef shortage which means her country will soon have fewer cows than people for the first time in living memory, Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández has launched a bold campaign to persuade the nation that pig meat is “sexy”.

She has given a speech touting pork as a cheap alternative to Viagra – and suggesting that she had personal experience. “I didn’t know that eating pork improved sexual activity, [but] it is much more gratifying to eat some grilled pork than to take Viagra,” she said at a meeting on Thursday where she unveiled new subsidies to representatives of the swine industry.

By personal experience, one might presume she means that she prefers her wall-eyed shell-of-a-former-president husband eat pork rather than take Viagra so she doesn’t have to indulge him in the bedroom, thus enabling her to keep up the pretense that she married him because they are madly in love rather than that she’s a power-grubbing gold-digger without giving in to his drug-induced-arousal.  Just a little exercise in skepticism.  Of course, most everybody is already wise to gimmick:

Her comments have sparked a heated debate in a country where a typical consumer eats beef every day, getting through 165lbs (or slightly more than their body weight) in ribs, steak, and beef sausages a year.  Something certainly has to be done to protect Argentina’s beef stocks from collapse: a long-running drought has made it harder for some ranchers to fatten cows for slaughter, while populist laws fixing beef prices have persuaded others to quit the cattle business.

The obvious response is to tell people that pork will really get you going, so you should eat that for lunch instead of your standard Choripan or Sandwich de Vacío.  For those of us who worry that the United States is adopting the protectionism-combined-with-massive-inflation policy that spawned three economic crises in the past 30 years in Argentina, a country that should be pretty resilient in that respect, it’s always helpful to look to the porteños if we want to find out what not to do.

Cristina is very fond of playing the populist card, but a prolonged beef shortage may be the one thing that undoes her as a politician, even in a country that has the longest history of presidential propaganda in the Western Hemisphere.  She may be the hottest politician in the world besides Sarah Palin, but if there’s one thing Argentines can’t do without, it’s their beef.  It’s as basic to their lifestyle as mate or Diego Maradona.  If this situation does prove to be her Waterloo, I say good riddance.

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