By Brendan S.
On Thursday March 10, thousands of protesters demonstrated at the National Congress in Buenos Aires against an imminent bill approving $45 billion in loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Argentine state is already $18 billion in debt to the IMF, a debt steadily growing as 50% inflation plagues an Argentine Peso barely hanging on by the tendon of currency controls.
Residents of Buenos Aires, who have seen economic crises produced in the wake of IMF debt trap diplomacy, have made their demands clear: no dependence on the IMF, and no renewed coffin of debt. National Deputy Romina Del Plá went as far as saying the impending bill would “herald the conditions for a popular rebellion.” Argentina came very close to one during its 2001-2002 economic crisis, spawned largely due to IMF interference which stripped the economy of its domestic foundations.
The IMF was established during the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference as a mechanism to globalize the Western financial system in the wake of WWII, making Washington DC the definitive capital of capitalism. Many have described the IMF as a form of economic imperialism, replacing the hard power imperialism of the post-feudal era with soft power imperialism of the neoliberal era.
Since WWII, the IMF has run a global extortion campaign, obliterating local economies across the world and forcing countries to readjust their economic policies to enable corporate oligopoly in structural adjustment programs (SAPs) in order to receive loans. This debt trap diplomacy has recently been emulated by the Chinese state’s Belt & Road Initiative, which relies on its own form of structural adjustment programs.
Popular resistances have emerged across the world in response to states attempting to implement SAPs, such as the EZLN of Mexico. The EZLN continues to fight against corporate militias backed by the Mexican state and cartels fueled by IMF-endorsed austerity policies. Cartels have relied heavily on IMF programs for their integrity and membership, capitalizing on increased wealth inequality and diminished public programs in the wake of SAPs.
States also weaponize IMF loans against marginalized populations, for which the IMF has no binding measures against. In 2019, the Turkish state used IMF and World Bank loans to displace roughly 80,000 Kurds and erase their cultural sites by injecting a series of dam projects into eastern Anatolia. This has, in turn, strengthened the legitimacy of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the region.
Where the IMF is present, one is likely to find popular discontent and resistance. Where the airs of Buenos Aires will carry the IMF remains to be seen. It is clear, however, that the airs have spawned a tempest in its path, one that will confront the institution for as long as it attempts to occupy the Argentine economy, and one that will haunt the Argentine oligarchy for as long as it remains sympathetic.