While Americans lament on the idea of Hillary Clinton possibly being our first woman in the office of POTUS, Argentina’s second woman president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) leaves office this week after two consecutive terms at the helm. Unlike the US, Argentine law dictates that an elected president may not run more than two consecutive terms, but may run again after another candidate has served, making CFK ineligible to run again until 2019. Prior to President Nestor Kirchner passing, the husband and wife politicos planned on alternating terms to try to keep power between the two of them for as long as possible. Between CFK and her late husband who had served before her, the swearing-in of the new president ends twelve consecutive years of Kirchnerism.
5 Things You Need to Know About Kirchnerism’s reign on Argentina:
- Legalization of Gay and Trans Rights. In 2010, the predominantly Catholic country became the first in South America to legalize same-sex marriages. CMK’s administration gave same-sex couples the same adoption and inheritance rights as their cis-gender, heterosexual counterparts. In 2012, CFK personally gave national identity cards to transgender folks in recognition of their correct genders. Sadly, one of those women – Diana Sacayan, an outspoken trans rights activist, was killed in a violent transphobic murder in October. Regardless of newly progressive politics across the continent, Latin America is responsible for 78% of the 1,731 murders of transgender and gender-diverse people reported worldwide between January 2008 and December 2014. (source: Transgender Europe)
- Universal Child Allowance. Thankfully, few Argentinians argue against the Universal Child Allowance. This act was passed in 2009 and provides financial support to parents who are unemployed or work in the informal sector. Parents receive a monthly stipend of 837 Argentine pesos ($88, £57 at the official market exchange rate) per child per month, under 18 years old and for up to five children. Parents receive 80% over the course of the year. Before the school year in March, parents must present vaccination, attendance, and other health records to receive the remaining 20%. Love her or hate her, the majority of Argentinians agree of universal child allowance as a necessary policy. Data regarding the long-term health and education benefits are still being collected, as this is a relatively new policy, approximately seven years old. (Source: BBC News)
- Nationalization of Corrupt, Privatized Services. As members of the Justicialist Party, some of the better things that the Kirchners have done is help re-nationalize different public works such as the radio spectrum, postal service, water companies, national carrier Aerolineas Argentinas, oil company YPF, Argentina’s railway system and its pension fund. The opposition criticizes this as “interference” that makes it less efficient.
- Legal System/Smeagol System. Here’s where things get a little sketchy. There was a horrible bombing back in 1994 when the Kirchners were not yet in power. According to The Atlantic, “Alberto Nisman, who was the prosecutor investigating the 1994 attack on a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, said he had definitive proof that the government had tried to negotiate a deal to safeguard Iranian officials from prosecution in the attack in exchange for access to Iran’s energy market.” This same man recently popped up dead from an apparent “suicide” with EXTREMELY suspicious circumstances… like no gunpowder on the hands nor an exit wound, which would suggest he was shot from a distance. The bombing of the Jewish center was the largest anti-Semitic attack in Argentina post-WWII, with over eighty lives lost in the explosion. With evidence to suggest a coverup to protect a relationship with Iran, it makes one question just how much either Kirchner knew about the situation and how far they were willing to go to cover it up. (A Judge dismissed the coverup.)
- Digging Argentina Out of Debt. When CFK and her husband came to power, there was a great deal of debt to bounce back from, much like the Obama administration faced after the poorly-run Bush era — only a LOT worse. Argentina defaulted on $100 BILLION in loans, which was the largest economic implosion in history before Greece (in 2014, Greece was at about €317 Billion in debt). Nestor Kirchner did his best to restructure the debt, and looking at that MASSIVE amount, the Kirchners and their cabinet did a pretty solid job with what they had. In 2005, they were able to talk most of the creditors into swapping their bonds for new ones that left them with less than 30 cents on the dollar: that’s less than a third of their initial investment. After Nestor had passed away, Cristina brought forth a second wave of debt restructuring in 2010 which was able to reduce the percentage of renegotiated bonds to 93%. That remaining 7% refused a deal and has henceforth been known as “the holdouts.” Sadly, one is left to wonder just how much power those who hold the money must have in a government that is still in flux to an extent. (Source: BBC News)
Kirchner and her husband were hardly perfect – not exactly the liberal shining beacon of hope with totally clean hands that I wish for in my politicians, but then those seem to rarely get elected. They were the best choices at the time. CFK has built a stronger state by saying no to Big Money, but the economy still needs help after all of those predatory loans that were accepted in the 2001 economic collapse, which she refuses to repay. CFK called out the Obama administration for requesting that Argentina pprovidesIran with nuclear fuel back in 2010, and did so very publicly on the floor of the United Nations.
“In 2010 we were visited in Argentina by Gary Samore, at that time the White House’s top advisor in nuclear issues. He came to see us in Argentina with a mission, with an objective: under the control of IAEA, the international organization in the field of weapons control and nuclear regulation, Argentina had supplied in the year 1987, during the first democratic government, the nuclear fuel for the reactor known as “Teheran”. Gary Samore had explained to our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Héctor Timerman, that negotiations were underway for the Islamic Republic of Iran to cease with its uranium enrichment activities or to do it to a lesser extent but Iran claimed that it needed to enrich this Teheran nuclear reactor and this was hindering negotiations. They came to ask us, Argentines, to provide the Islamic Republic of Iran with nuclear fuel. Rohani was not in office yet. It was Ahmadinejad’s administration and negotiations had already started.”
That takes a lot of guts to do something like that! However, the entire thing is spun by the US government to be a little less shady than what one might think, but still questionable. The further you go into Argentina’s relationship with Iran, the stranger things get and lots of people start popping up dead.
Maybe Clinton and CFK aren’t so different after all. Sigh. When do I get to punch the presidential ballot for Ruth Bader Ginsberg?