May 25, 2013
Cristina goes walkabout
Her search for friends has led her to unsavoury places
Like so many other ambitious politicians, Mrs Cristina Kirchner wants to play a distinguished part on the world stage. When preparing herself for her current job, she assumed that if she made out she cared deeply about human rights she would be typecast as a forward-thinking progressive and would quickly become the darling of the international left. She also appreciated that being female was an asset: after proclaiming that the 20th century would be dominated by women, she saw herself as a leading member of a team of soon-to-be-elected presidents such as Hillary Clinton and Ségolène Royal.
That did not work out, but there was always Angela Merkel to fall back on, so Cristina said she wanted Argentina to be like Germany. However, despite her married name, she lacks those stern Teutonic virtues she once affected to admire and, to complicate things still further, Angela lost little time in becoming the world’s foremost spokesperson for fiscal rigour, spending cuts and other equally unpleasant policies that in Argentina are associated with the IMF, a wicked neoliberal organization all self-respecting Kirchnerites detest. For a while, Cristina imagined that Barack Obama would treat her as a favourite, but, alas, that was not to be. Instead of replying gracefully to her overtures, he brushed them aside and let her know he expected her to obey the rules.
That was galling. So too, needless to say, has been the marked reluctance of European and North American progressives to consider her one of their own. In the rest of the world, Peronism is still regarded as a right-wing movement, while, in Western countries at any rate, anything that smacks of populism is despised. Not surprisingly, Cristina soon began to feel very lonely. The widely respected Spanish socialist Felipe González chided her for blaming everything on the IMF, French leaders were upset by the way she treated their companies, North Americans took an excessive interest in the corrupt practices that are routine in Argentina, and the British, damn them, refused to do the decent thing and hand her the Malvinas Islands, along with their “transplanted” inhabitants of whom many are the descendents of settlers who put down roots long before any Kirchner thought of trying their luck in the Western hemisphere.
Spurned by mainstream progressives, Cristina has had to look elsewhere for friends. She found some in Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia, places whose rulers do not object to her acquiring wealth by mysterious means, fiddling the economic statistics, berating uppity journalists for their sins or telling judges they had better be careful. But to belong to the club set up by the Castro brothers, whose most raucous and richest member is Hugo Chávez, Cristina had to get on good terms with the murderous theocrats currently ruling Iran.
In theory, what Latin America’s allegedly left-wing revolutionaries stand for has nothing at all in common with the Islamists’ remorseless attempt to put the clock back a millennium or so, but to their mind hostility towards Yankee imperialism trumps everything else. No doubt they are fully aware that as soon as the Iranian holy warriors got the chance they butchered their erstwhile left-wing allies who had helped them overthrow the Shah, but that does not disturb them in the slightest.
By deciding to pretend that the religious fanatics in Iran are as keen as anyone to see the individuals responsible for blowing up the AMIA building — killing 85 people — get their just desserts, Cristina must think she has paid in full the membership fees demanded by the leftist nationalist club and that, with Chávez near death and both Castro brothers in their eighties, she has a fair chance of taking it over.
Unfortunately for her, that is unlikely to happen. As well as having their fate tied to the continued political and physical health of their present leaders, the main Latin American countries that are lining up alongside Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and, it would seem, Argentina, are racing toward economic collapse. Cuba depends on Venezuelan largesse, but Chávez has contrived to waste the hundreds of billions of petrodollars granted him by geology; as a result, remarkable as it may sound, Venezuela, a country that apparently is unable to produce anything apart from oil, could slide into bankruptcy.
Argentina may be a bit better off, but it too seems about to plunge into yet another inflationary maelstrom, something it does at regular intervals because its rulers are fond of behaving as though they would never run out of ready cash. Iran is in no position to lend much of a hand; thanks to sanctions and an Islamic variant of populist economics, it too is desperately short of funds. There is also the risk that at any moment Israel, with or without the US, may decide to take out its nuclear installations rather than run the risk of being used as an atomic testing ground. In an effort to deprive the Israelis of the need to consider such a dangerous option, the US and, in its own unenthusiastic fashion, the European Union, are rapidly tightening the economic noose around Iran’s neck. They, and the Israelis, are looking askance at what Cristina is up to. In her search for friends abroad she has strayed into some extremely unsavoury places; she will be lucky indeed if she gets out before she is mugged.