May 26, 2013
CFK at UNO in NYC
While controversy mounts over President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s domestic agenda, the focus this week is (or should be) on her exterior policies as she addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York today — towards the world in general and the host country in particular. Perhaps the key here lies less in today’s speech, her UN meetings or her university lectures as in her contacts with Exxon Mobile Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson and other oilmen parallel to YPF CEO Miguel Galuccio’s quest for overseas investors (on the heels of a nebulous co-operation agreement inked with Chevron earlier this month). Prior to her week in the United States (the world’s undisputed centre of shale expertise), CFK clearly sided with her administration’s moderates more than once. Not only has she given Defence Minister Arturo Puricelli a green light to refute criticisms of his ministry’s active interest in US military training courses (voiced by Página 12 columnist and hitherto leading government ideologue Horacio Verbitsky, whom Puricelli would not dare contradict without presidential approval) — cold feet suddenly appeared over Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman’s meeting with his Iranian colleague Ali Akbar Salehi (on which there was no word when this editorial was written). And as if to clinch the impression of an olive branch, last week’s decision by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to shorten the fuse for a showdown over Argentina’s dodgy statistics to just three months did not trigger a whisper of protest from even the most extreme national populist in government ranks.
Whether the YPF motive is the whole story or whether this rapprochement obeys a wider economic, fiscal or geopolitical logic remains to be seen. This question could be answered soon if the overseas oil drive quickly loses steam — entirely possible given Deputy Economy Minister Axel Kicillof’s efforts to spread the message that any foreign stake in YPF will be at the mercy of an omnipotent state. One definite indication of an interest in reconciliation with the US beyond oil would be a new foreign minister. This reconciliation would be hardly possible with Timerman — Washington is much more inclined to extend the benefit of the doubt to a foe turning friend, even for pragmatic reasons, than the other way round (Timerman owes his portfolio to his previous posts at the New York consulate and Washington embassy fostering relations, only to pounce upon US police training equipment at Ezeiza airport 20 months ago).
Much will depend on this week to see how much unity there is with either the UN or the US.