Keely Herring, JHU:
For Argentina, outlandish and detrimental political leadership along with economic crises seem to be the typical “rinse and repeat.” The all too familiar unreliability and corruption in Argentine political leadership has only continued, and arguably come to a head with President Cristina Kirchner and recent events involving the murder of Alberto Nisman, the head prosecutor appointed to investigate the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires which resulted in the death of 85 people. Nisman was in the midst of revealing a shocking accusation: President Kirchner and her foreign minister, Hector Timmerman, were complicit in trying to reach a secret deal with Iran for favorable oil prices in exchange for “shielding Iranian officials from charges” that they organized the AMIA bombing, according to the New York Times. Now, roughly two decades after the bombing, and, conveniently, a day before his scheduled meeting before Congress, Nisman was found dead under suspicious circumstances. And, naturally, a plethora of reactions across Argentina, against Cristina Kirchner and the government as a whole, are erupting.
Before delving into the implications of this particular event, it would first be beneficial to provide a brief background on the notorious Cristina, She is widely unpopular, and has only become increasingly so as her presidency has progressed. According to the Washington Post, Fernandez Kirchner’s approval ratings have dropped seven points and are currently huddling around 40%. Though she was technically elected, many view her election as an inheritance of her late husband’s, Nestor Kirchner’s, presidency. She has a reputation of being extremely egoistical, and for avoiding the most pressing and concerning issues within her nation when they should be addressed. Even during times of severe crisis in Argentina (i.e. the debt default last year and the suspicious death of Alberto Nisman) she has a tendency to be in the press for unrelated and objectively strange behavior.
For example, this past December (in the wake of economic troubles and default), CFK made the news for her decision to adopt a Jewish godson because, as the seventh child, he was eligible for presidential adoption. And now, in the midst of accusations of Nisman’s murder and complicity in a cover-up of a terrorist attack against the capital city of her own nation, Cristina has committed a social media faux pas. On February 4, while on a visit to China, a country Argentina is incredibly reliant on both for soybean export as well as infrastructural investment within the country, Kirchner sent out a tweet making fun of the Chinese accent. Racism against the Chinese is rampant in Argentina, and there is little to no censorship or political correctness regarding this matter. However, it is surprising that a head of state would think it appropriate and humorous to tweet an offensive joke about one of the countries with which it is most economically dependent (especially given the current precarious economic position of the country), and while she is there visiting China’s political leaders.
It is decisions like these that call into question Cristina Fernandez Kirchner’s credibility. When paired with the damning evidence that is being uncovered surrounding Nisman’s murder, things are not looking to good for CFK. Nisman recently uncovered telephone calls between Argentinian and Iranian officials trying to reach a deal, under Fernandez Kirchner’s orders. It was also recently discovered, that Nisman had drafted an arrest warrant for CFK and her foreign minister, Hector Timmerman. Cristina and the Kirchner government’s reaction to the entire situation does not put to rest any suspicions: first she made a public statement that Nisman committed suicide. Later, she changed her view stating that his death (and discoveries about her complicity in negotiating with terrorists) was the result of outside forces trying to undermine her government and cause unrest within Argentina.
CFK maintains some popularity for supporting, and ultimately legalizing, gay marriage within Argentina—a particularly significant development for a predominantly Catholic nation. She is also socially progressive and support transgender rights, as well as women’s rights efforts within Argentina. Kirchner is also part of the Peronist party, which has its roots in the policies of Juan Peron, the president of Argentina during the 1950s and again in the 1970s. Generally speaking, Peronism is more targeted to the lower, industrial working classes, and provides them with social and economic support. For this reason, Kirchner has maintained popularity amongst lower classes within Argentina. However, given recent events, protests and rallies have sprung up against Kirchner and her administration. The Jewish community in particular has expressed frustration and unease with the implications of Nisman’s death and the question of foul play.
Cristina Fernandez Kirchner is not allowed to run for office again this year. But given recent developments, a majority of Argentines do not seem too shaken up about the Kirchner dynasty coming to an end.