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The Downfall of Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner and Her Authoritarian Populism

Cristina Kirchner, El American

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[Leer en español]

By Eduardo Zalovich *

Argentina is a country with enormous potential. Who has not been impressed by the pace of Buenos Aires, its enormous avenues, and its cultural activity? It has first-rate geography, with paradisaical places like Bariloche, the Arrayanes forest, and the crystalline Nahuel Huapi Lake. It could be a regional power without a doubt. But it has a big obstacle: its national politics.

Peronism was always authoritarian, and although its important social work in the mid-twentieth century should be noted, it became more violent with time. It always embraced both fascism and Marxism. The democrats were never in the majority. Juan Perón allowed — in exchange for a fortune in gold — hundreds of Nazi criminals to take refuge in the country. To tell the truth, he did not share that ideology nor its racist theories. His idol was always Benito Mussolini, whose regime he personally lived through as military attaché in Italy. Now his heirs admire Chávez and Fidel Castro.

Since 1930, Argentina has gone through military dictatorships and weak civilian governments. Only in 1983, with the triumph of Raúl Alfonsín, democracy was slowly consolidated. Former President Mauricio Macri also respected freedoms, but his poor economic management favored the return of the Justicialist Party (PJ) in its worst version: Kirchnerism. And these two years of government headed by Alberto Fernández, but controlled by Cristina and her son Máximo, were the worst.

The defeat of the PJ in the PASO (Acronym in Spanish for Open, Simultaneous and Mandatory Primary Elections) was resounding. Never in its history had it been received so poorly by Argentines. This paves the way for the opposition’s victory in November and the certain loss of the parliamentary majority. This will leave the country with a weak president, a vice-president at risk of being tried and fanatic groups such as “La Cámpora” out of control. A powder keg.

Let’s see the key facts, after the defeat, which augur a triumph of the opposition front “Cambiemos” in November.

  1. Seventy percent of the Argentine population is still not vaccinated. The handling of the pandemic was disastrous, with an eight-month lockdown and the so-called “VIP vaccination”, which consisted in vaccinating first the rulers, their families and Kirchnerist militants;
  2. Argentina rejected an agreement with Pfizer — an “imperialist” vaccine — which slowed down immunization, causing tens of thousands of deaths that could have been saved. To date, 116,000 people have died.
  3. While a quarantine was in force, including prison sentences, a luxurious party was held at the presidential residence for the birthday of Fabiola, the president’s wife. Alberto first denied it, and when photos went public he blamed it on… his wife.
  4. Cristina Fernández has 20 open legal cases, from the brutal growth of the family fortune —estimated at 800 million dollars — to the murder of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who on the same day she was to be questioned in Congress for the AMIA bombing (85 victims) was found dead in his apartment.
  5. Aníbal Fernández, Minister of Security, threatened the opposition cartoonist Nik on Twitter with this message: “Many schools in CABA receive subsidies from the state and that’s fine. For example, the ORT school. Do you know it? Yes, you do… Or do you want me to draw you a little picture? Excellent school, I guarantee it. I repeat… Do you know it?”
  6. The message was criticized by the entire political spectrum, including the head of the cabinet because it constitutes a veiled threat to Nik’s two daughters, who attend ORT. In addition, it was clarified that he does not receive any state subsidy. To top it all off, Fernández used “privileged information” by revealing information about the family of an opposing citizen. A tactic often used by the mafia and dictatorships.
  7. Poverty exceeded 40% of the population, but the government began to give away refrigerators and bicycles in some areas.
  8. Foreign policy is aligned with the Marxist dictatorships of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. In addition, Alberto Fernández came out very badly from his verbal confrontation with Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou, regarding the functioning of MERCOSUR.
  9. Finally, Cristina Kirchner’s arrogance, insulting her own and others, using some sort of hooligan vocabulary, bothers people. She even declared “history acquitted me.” Perhaps she was referring to a book that she herself intends to write.

In short, difficult times are ahead for the Argentine Republic, especially while an unbalanced and authoritarian leader tries to perpetuate herself in power at any price. Democracy is in check.

A historian, Eduardo Zalovich lives in Israel.

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