By Nil Nikandrov
There is less than a year to go before the presidential elections in Argentina, scheduled to take place on 25 October. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has twice won the battle for the highest government post, in 2007 and 2011, and so is unable to re-run for the presidency.
The question of her successor is being discussed increasingly frequently in Argentina. Who will take up the philosophy of Kirchnerism, a modern-day version of the ideology of the Justicialist Party founded in 1947 by Juan and Evita Perón? Néstor Kirchner, an outstanding politician who was mentioned in the same breath as Lula da Silva, Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa, died in 2010. However, Cristina Fernández was able to maintain the policies he had put in place: strengthening Argentina’s sovereignty, opposing US dictates on the continent, and carrying out reform in the interests of the people.
The most likely presidential successor to continue the Kirchners’ policies is believed to be Daniel Scioli, who was Vice President of Argentina and is the current Governor of Buenos Aires Province. Scioli avoids political confrontations and is conducive to reaching compromises with the opposition, which is why he does not arouse the sympathies of hard-line supporters of Kirchnerism, who reject any kind of dialogue with the right. Scioli knows how to manoeuvre, demonstrates his temperance, and is willing to cooperate with financial and business circles that provide a constant stream of recommendations, including on how to break relations with Cristina. There are also other candidates who were close to Néstor and are now part of Cristina’s team – ministers, governors and senators – who are actively making themselves known. The candidate will be decided once and for all at the primary elections in August 2015, when all the presidential candidates of the ruling Front for Victory coalition will go through the selection procedures.
It is possible to judge the complexity of the moment for Cristina Fernández by the results of the parliamentary elections in October 2013. The ruling coalition was unable to achieve a decisive victory. It maintained a majority in both houses of parliament, but it did not receive a constitutional majority of two thirds. The coalition took just half of the country’s 24 provinces. Traditional rivalry between the Justicialist Party and its opponents represented by the Radical Civic Union and the right-wing Republican Proposal (PRO) party was made more difficult by a schism within the ruling party itself. Nevertheless, the Front for Victory party is still Argentina’s main political force.
Néstor Kirchner, after abandoning the neoliberal economic model, managed to pull Argentina out of its deep stagnation. Later, amid the global crisis, Cristina was forced to make difficult decisions, including tightening state control over imports and over the exchange rate. There was also a crackdown on the dominance of bureaucracy, inflation, foreign currency speculation and so on. As well as this, Cristina initiated a review of banks and the country’s exchange offices to curb the channels of illegal money laundering. On suspicion of the illegal removal of capital abroad, the activities of the major American company Procter & Gamble were also suspended in Argentina. Investigations are also continuing into crimes committed by the security forces during the rule of the military junta from 1976 to 1983.
It is therefore not surprising that Cristina has a number of enemies, including in the media, who are carrying out a targeted campaign to discredit her. Cristina’s tax returns, as well as those of her late husband and their grown-up children, are being thoroughly scrutinised. They are suspected of concealing income. Cristina’s inner circle is also in the crosshairs.
According to political analysts, the attacks currently being launched against the Argentine president are part of an elaborate plan to ensure the rise to power of political forces loyal to the US and a radical change of policy.
It is in this vein that the scandalous story of the vulture funds should be considered, who bought up the debt obligations of countries experiencing financial difficulties for next to nothing and then demanded payments through the courts that far exceeded the size of the debt. This is exactly what happened with Argentina. Speaking at the UN General Assembly in September, Cristina Kirchner strongly condemned the practice and called for the adoption of legislative measures to restrict the activities of these ‘vultures’.
In relation to the trial, Argentina – a sovereign state – has come up against US Judge Thomas Griesa, who spent several years dealing with the funds lent to Argentina. The Argentine government does not consider the current situation a default: Buenos Aires is willing to fulfil its obligations towards its creditors. There is a way out of the current situation: holders of restructured debt are being offered interest payments from the Argentine bank Banco de la Nacion Fideicomiso. However, Thomas Griesa is threatening new reprisals. In particular, if Buenos Aires does not capitulate and agree to pay the ‘vultures’ what they are demanding, then Argentina faces a ban on doing business with US banks. Buenos Aires has dug in its heels, however. Any decisions by the US judge that create obstacles to the restructuring of Argentina’s debt or call into question the decisions of the country’s government will be regarded as interference in its internal affairs.
The theory of an impending default being replicated by propaganda is causing the Argentine authorities understandable irritation. In September 2014, the acting US charge d’affaires in Argentina, Kevin Sullivan, told local newspaper Clarin: «To return to a path of stable economic growth and attract the investment that Argentina needs, it is important that the country gets out of default as quickly as possible.» Sullivan was summoned to the foreign ministry where they objected to his words, which «do not have any kind of factual basis, but are fully in accordance with the positions of the vulture funds». The US diplomat was warned that «in case of further interruptions in the internal affairs of the Republic of Argentina, the most severe measures will be adopted, as stipulated by the Vienna Convention over the conduct of diplomatic representatives». As emphasised by the Argentine media, that means declaring Kevin Sullivan a persona non grata.
It should be said that the post of US ambassador to Argentina has been vacant since July 2013. In Latin America, this is no longer uncommon: for a long time there was no US ambassador to Ecuador, and Washington has not succeeded in sending ambassadors to Venezuela and Bolivia.
For more than a year now, the US has been considering Noah Bryson Mamet, a businessman who has good personal relations with Obama, regularly plays golf with him and, most importantly, financed his election campaign, as a candidate for the post of ambassador to Argentina. During the Senate hearings, Mamet was not brimming with knowledge about Argentine reality. The senators’ criticisms were leaked by the media: Argentina «in both economic and political terms is a pre-crisis state», therefore a professional diplomatic service needs to be sent to Buenos Aires, rather than an amateur.
The staff at the US embassy in Argentina by way of the State Department, the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies is already full of professionals in terms of assessing Argentina’s status as «pre-crisis». The list of US diplomats published by the Argentine Foreign Ministry includes many who have carried out subversive activities in other countries. The political and economic sections shielding such CIA employees as Timothy Murdoch Stater, who is not only a practitioner but also a theoretician of subversive activities, Kenneth Roy, Yordanka Roy, Brendan O´Brien, Michael Lance Eckel and many others, are proving to be particularly active. It is also worth mentioning Anaida K. Haas, who worked successfully in Afghanistan, and was then transferred to the State Department (Public Diplomacy Officer, Office of Russian Affairs). It is possible to suppose that Haas’ transfer to Argentina is linked to the task she has been assigned relating to trade relations between Russia and Argentina. Washington is furious that Cristina Fernández was one of the first Latin American leaders to declare their willingness to supply Argentine goods to the Russian market in place of the European goods that have been withdrawn, and back up her words with actions.
The durability of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government will be shown in the first few weeks of next year. It is difficult to expect that the presidential election campaign is going to be peaceful, since CIA agents in the ranks of the opposition are intent on destabilisation. There will probably be calls for Cristina’s early resignation (on health grounds), the ‘fifth column’ will be mobilised, public transport strikes will break out, and sabotage to power lines should not be ruled out. All of this has happened in other countries that Washington considers geopolitical opponents.
The seditious actions of the US embassy in Buenos Aires can be inferred by the information reports being distributed by embassy employees (only to US citizens!), which refer to a dramatic rise in crime rates and suggest that crowded places be avoided. Speaking on national television, Cristina Fernández referred to these types of ‘reports’ as acts of provocation.
The Argentine season of provocations by US intelligence agencies is only just beginning.
Nil Nikandrov is a Moscow-based journalist covering Latin America’s politics and strained relations with the U.S., a renown critic of the devastating grip of neoliberal administrations on national economies. He offers on a regular basis commentaries unmasking the efforts made by the CIA and other Western intelligence services to undermine progressive governments in Latin America.
This article is courtesy of the Strategic Culture Foundation.