Defending Capitalism in Argentina

Rissig Licha, the Fleishman-Hillard PR firm's executive director in Argentina, is urging businesses there to "show their hand and defend the capitalist system. Once society begins to question the system, it will be much more difficult," says Licha, whose clients have included Philip Morris and the Clarin Group, a powerful media conglomerate. The problem is that Argentinians are already doing more than "question" the system. "You know what we want to do? Burn these banks down," says a typical Argentinian quoted in The Miami Herald, which reports that "the public mood is turning ever darker" against both banks and politicians -- "a startling change in a country where they have long formed an elite and untouchable class whose members lived off privileges, perks and fat payrolls. It is hard to exaggerate the depth of the current crisis afflicting Argentina, a nation mired in its longest and deepest recession ever -- worse even than the Great Depression. Nearly one out of four Argentines is out of a job. The banking system teeters on collapse. Three million citizens confront some level of hunger." Inflation is soaring. According to Alan Cibils, the crisis is "the culmination and logical outcome" of a quarter century of unfettered capitalism, combined with extreme austerity measures imposed on the poor by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.