May 23, 2013
Second to none
If the Gospel according to Saint Matthew tells us: “But many who are first shall be last and the last shall be first,” the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration has embraced this spirit at least to the extent of placing subordinates above superiors with striking frequency. Thus looking at the ministries in charge of two prime areas of public concern, crime and inflation, we can see Deputy Economy Minister Axel Kicillof as increasingly the hub of economic policy decision-making with his nominal head Hernán Lorenzino very much in the back seat while Kicilloff’s Security Ministry counterpart Sergio Berni makes all the drug haul and other announcements, sidelining his superior Nilda Garré. As for this country’s most important district, the CFK administration values Buenos Aires provincial Lieutenant-Governor Gabriel Mariotto far above Governor Daniel Scioli, often seating him in front of Scioli at official events (even if the opinion polls follow other criteria). And now we read of the Foreign Ministry pushing the chargés de’affaires to the fore in around a quarter of Argentina’s embassies abroad instead of naming ambassadors (apparently part of a strategy of weeding out veteran diplomats and replacing them with a younger generation imbued with ruling party ideology) — at least this ministry’s head Héctor Timerman still enjoys more news space than his deputy minister Eduardo Zuain, if not for the best of reasons.
Nor is this downgraded representation abroad merely a question of skipping places like Tuvalu or Tadzhikstan. Indeed by not replacing Jorge Argüello (moved from New York to Washington late last year) at the United Nations, Argentina is effectively turning its back on the entire planet — the European Union, the world’s biggest economic and trading bloc, is hardly less important. Despite housing the latter’s main port for imports from Argentina, Rotterdam (not to mention Crown Princess Máxima), the Netherlands is not deemed worthy of an Argentine ambassador. Last year Sweden made a huge gesture in Argentina’s favour by reversing the closure of its embassy here but an ungrateful Argentine does not reciprocate with an envoy in Stockholm. We could go on and on.
If Napoleon famously said: “Every corporal carries a marshal’s baton in his knapsack,” he was seeking to maximize upward mobility, not turn marshals into corporals. Either there is an undue respect for the Peter Principle (not allowing anybody to rise above their level of competence) or an already hyperpresidential democracy is being dangerously overcentralized.