WHEN CRISTINA Fernandez de Kirchner was reelected president of Argentina last October, we posited
that she had a choice to make between continuing to pursue the autocratic populism she practiced before the election and leading her country back toward global markets and the democratic world.
This week Ms. Fernandez made her choice clear, by nationalizing the country’s largest oil company. Like her recent renewal of Argentina’s claims to the Falkland Islands
, the measure won her cheap domestic applause — and ensured that Argentina’s isolation from the world, and from the economic progress of its neighbors, will continue to grow.
The president’s further lurch toward the left is bad news not only for businessmen. Since the election the government has continued to attack independent media, including the country’s two most important newspapers, Clarin and La Nacion. Economists who dare to report the true rate of inflation — upward of 20 percent — are subject to prosecution, while the official figures are doctored. Ms. Fernandez is said to be guided by a circle of militants led by her son, Maximo, and named after a leftist president of the early 1970s, Hector Campora.
The curse that shadows this once-rich country is the inability of its political class to learn from its blunders — or from its neighbors. While Brazil and Mexico power ahead, integrating with the world economy and consolidating stable democracies, Argentina under Ms. Fernandez is headed inexorably toward another crash. While there is little the rest of the world can do to prevent it, one way to send a wake-up call would be to remove Argentina from the Group of 20, the supposedly elite club of nations that gathers to weigh world economic problems. Neighboring Chile, which has far surpassed Argentina in economic and political development, would be the ideal replacement.