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Argentina’s Recurring Nightmare

How Weak Institutions Hold the Country’s Economy Back

A demonstration against Mauricio Macri's government, in Buenos Aires, September 2019 Agustín Marcarian / Reuters

A little more than two years ago, Argentine President Mauricio Macri looked like a shoo-in for reelection. Heralded at home and abroad as a skillful pro-market reformer, he led his party to victory in the midterm elections in 2017. But Macri is headed for a resounding defeat in the presidential contest slated for October 27, while his predecessor—the former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner—is set to return to power. This time, she is running for vice president alongside her former Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers, Alberto Fernández, whom she handpicked for the top job.

Macri’s sudden fall from grace tracked the downward trajectory of the Argentine economy over the same period. At the beginning of his presidency, Macri introduced a gradual program of market-oriented reforms and even expanded some of the social policies he inherited from Fernández de Kirchner. To cover the budget shortfall, he

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