The victory was seen as a mandate for Fernandez de Kirchner, 58, to continue unorthodox economic policies rooted in heavy state spending while paying little heed to bondholders trying to collect billions of dollars in unpaid debt.
“With what’s happening in the world, you have to feel very proud,” she said as she was mobbed by supporters after casting her vote in the Patagonian provincial city of Rio Gallegos. “After a lifetime of pushing those ideas, we now see that they were not a mistake and that we are on the right path.”
As she frequently reminds Argentines, her policies are the same as those of her late husband and predecessor in the presidency, Nestor Kirchner. He took office in 2003, a year after Argentina had descended into economic calamity upon its $100 billion sovereign debt default, the largest in history.
Buoyed by a sharp and sustained demand from China and elsewhere for soy and other Argentine agricultural products, the economy grew at an annual average of 7.6 percent over the past eight years. Kirchner and then his wife, after taking office in 2007, used the windfall to fund cash transfers to poor families, energy subsidies and other social programs.
Economists in Argentina say Fernandez de Kirchner’s government has also resorted to doctoring inflation figures, so the official numbers do not reflect the 25 to 30 percent annual rise recorded by private economists. The government has also defiantly fought off lawsuits and other claims from disgruntled creditors chasing down money that is owed to them, which has led to increasing friction with the Obama administration and multinational lenders.
Economists and opposition politicians here say that the government’s high-spending ways, coupled with a world economic slowdown, could catch up with Argentina, a country familiar with cyclical booms and busts.
“We’re happily dancing on the Titanic,” said one of Fernandez de Kirchner’s challengers, Eduardo Duhalde, who preceded her husband as president.
But the government counters that it is putting Argentines and national sovereignty ahead of international creditors and Washington-based institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Indeed, in speech after speech, the president says her government is looking out for the average Argentine in a way that past governments have not.