March 11, 2014
US and us
Argentina has been suffering a largely negative press in the United States for some years now but the US Senate hearings to probe Washington’s prospective future envoy here, Noah Mamet, mark a new escalation of criticism — even beyond the levels of hostility triggered by Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman rashly applying the clippers to pry open the confiscated US police equipment in Ezeiza airport three Februarys ago. There is nothing new about the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration failing to enthuse hedge funds or the political darlings of the Tea Party on the Republican right but alarm-bells should start ringing when the criticism crosses party lines to include Democratic senators. Not to mention Mamet himself, a Democrat fund-raiser who grew up in the fashionably progressive world of Hollywood, who spoke of “fundamental differences” — it remains to be seen if he remains envoy-to-be after Thursday’s fierce grilling in which he showed both ignorance and misgivings about the country to which he is to be posted. Even the eternal critics plunged to new depths of ferocity when they stretched previous comparisons between Argentina and Venezuela to include North Korea.
More than just right or wrong, many of the US perceptions of Argentina seem simplistic — thus Argentine media regulation is often compared with the Venezuelan one when the local broadcasting law passed in 2009 could actually be seen more as a “German” piece of legislation than a “Chavist” one according to its articles and clauses — yet in many ways the CFK administration only has itself to blame for not attaching more importance to foreign policy and its image abroad. Playing the victim of a cruel world might earn electoral dividends at home (although the most recent results have been none too good) but it does not gain the respect of potential partners elsewhere. The criticism emanating from the US might be grossly unfair, more so than ever, but then life is unfair while extremists, lobbies and vested interests are all facts of life which need to be interwoven into the tapestry of any country’s foreign policy. But local myopia is not limited to an inept Foreign Ministry — opposition politicians often poles apart from the Tea Party are gleefully echoing the most mindless US critiques, sacrificing both truth and ideology in their own quest for power.
Hopefully, the latest orgy of Argentina-bashing in the US will be taken here as not only an insult but also a wake-up call.