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Cristina Gets Toy Doll Made After Her

January 18th, 2013 | 09:39 PM

President Cristina Kirchner was given a toy doll made in her image. It was a gift from the Argentine toy industry chamber, given to her while on a trip to Indonesia.

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US Embassy Video on Boca-River Súperclásico

January 18th, 2013 | 09:07 PM

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The U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires put out this video ahead of this Sunday’s “Súperclásico” soccer match between Boca Juniors and River Plate.

What do you think of the video?

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Cristina Offers Two Press Conferences In US

September 28th, 2012 | 07:13 AM

Though she doesn’t speak with journalists or offer press conferences in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s president this week offered two press conferences in the U.S.

Both were with students: first at Georgetown University, then at Harvard.

The students asked many of the questions people in Argentina would like to ask:

How high is inflation? Why don’t you answer questions in Argentina? How is it that Argentina’s neighboring economies can grow quickly without experiencing high inflation or limits on the purchase of U.S. dollars? How did you become so wealthy since taking office?

Cristina Kirchner answered these questions and others. In doing so, she offered a controversial defense of her policies and economic statistics. She denied that inflation is high and said she “permanently” interacts with journalists in Argentina.

Immediately following her claim that she speaks with local journalists, the association of journalists that cover her from the Casa Rosada issued a statement rejecting this claim as false.

Her Georgetown conference went smoothly and Mrs. Kirchner adroitly answered questions the way she wanted to. The Harvard Q&A was different. She angered visibly toward the end and appeared to be particularly contemptuous of one student who said he felt “privileged” to be among the few people able to ask her a question.

U.S. history buffs will note the president’s gaffe at Georgetown. While there she said George Washington won the Civil War (which ended in 1865, when the South’s General Lee surrendered to the North’s General Grant). In fact, Washington won the Revolutionary War and died in 1799, more than half a century before the Civil War began.

You can read my coverage of her comments here and here.

For live, ongoing coverage of Mrs. Kirchner and Argentina, follow on me Twitter: @taos

The Q&A sessions are well worth watching. Enjoy.

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Cristina: ‘The Majority of Europeans are Xenophobic’

August 8th, 2012 | 07:28 AM

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In a bizarre, rambling speech Tuesday, President Cristina Kirchner said the “majority of Europeans are xenophobic.”

Here’s the verbatim script from the relevant part of the speech, in which the president appeared exceptionally, inexplicably elated:

“You, where are you from, Coqui (she’s referring to Chaco Province Governor Jorge Capitanich), you’re dark but you’re not indigenous, right? You’re from Montenegro. Where are you from? This dark guy, and he looks kind of indigenous, but don’t be fooled, alright, he’s from Europe, from the Europe that’s pretty xenophobic. Alright, let’s see, where are you from? Well, the europeans are, the majority are xenophobic. Uuuhh, man, I’m going to have to clarify this because if not tomorrow this is gonna turn into to a big stinking mess. Alright, alright, tell us where you’re from, Coqui.”

In the original Spanish:

“¿Vos de dónde venís, Coqui, vos sos morocho pero no sos de pueblo originario? Vos venís de Montenegro. ¿De dónde venís vos? Este es morochón y parece medio indígena pero no se engañen, eh, este viene de Europa, de la Europa media xenofóbica. A ver, dale, ¿de dónde venís? Si los europeos son…la mayoría son xenofóbicos. Uy, a ver, voy a tener que aclarar esto porque si no mañana se va a armar una podrida total. Dale, dale, decí de dónde sos, Coqui.”

You can see her comments starting at about the 10-minute mark.

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On and Off The Record in Argentina

July 11th, 2012 | 08:52 PM

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President Cristina Kirchner said Wednesday that she had asked the national tax agency, AFIP, to investigate a man after a newspaper quoted him saying the real estate market is in bad shape.

The man, who reportedly runs a real estate agency and was quoted Sunday in Clarin, told the paper that the government’s latest limits on the purchase of U.S. dollars have rattled the nerves of potential buyers and caused them to think twice before agreeing to buy property.

In recent months the government has severely limited access to the foreign exchange market, making it virtually impossible for many people and companies to buy dollars and other currencies. Given that almost all home sales in Argentina are done in dollars, the crackdown has hurt the real estate market.

“Dollars are just a collector’s item now. The feeling people have is that if they let go of their dollars (to buy a house), they’ll never see them again,” Rodrigo Saldaña was quoted as saying. “Because of this, when we suggest to people that they accept pesos, 90% of them resoundingly say no.” As a result, Saldaña said, deals fall apart immediately. People selling homes want dollars while people buying homes are afraid to give them up.

Saldaña’s real estate agency typically closes between 12 and 15 deals a month, but last month they closed just two, according to the article.

Kirchner, who became a millionaire thanks to the real estate business, said she personally called AFIP Director Ricardo Echegaray and asked him to look into the matter. He did.

It turns out, Kirchner said, that Saldaña hasn’t filed taxes since 2007.

“He either lied to the newspaper or he lied to AFIP,” she said.

Whatever the case, for the purposes of this post, it’s immaterial whether Mr. Saldaña or the real estate agency paid its taxes.

What matters for this post is that Argentina’s president admitted in public — in a nationally televised speech which broadcast networks were forced to carry —  that she has used the tax agency to investigate people for saying things that she finds questionable. (more…)

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Cristina Kirchner as Theologist-in-Chief

July 3rd, 2012 | 07:29 PM

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Argentine President Cristina Kirchner is better known for her politics than for her musings on theology. But she broke with custom Tuesday and offered some thoughts on the latter.

“I am absolutely sure that God loves everyone. Because of that, if there’s life, it’s because God wants there to be life. If things happen, it’s because God wants those things to happen. And God blesses all of us. He doesn’t just bless those who think one way. He blesses even those who don’t pray to him and he also blesses those who curse him. Because of that, he’s God and because of that we continue believing in him and because of that we continue having the strength to move forward as Argentines.”

Of course, if Kirchner is correct, then her political opponents, as well as the journalists she often criticizes, are simply behaving the way God wants them to behave. But if that’s the case, how can they be blamed for simply acting in accordance with God’s will?

Labor union boss Hugo Moyano led a national strike last week, against the government — because God wanted him to do it? Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri rejects Kirchner’s plans to turn the subway system over to his district — because God wants him to do so?

Taking it to the extreme, could we explain the actions of Hitler, Mao and Stalin the same way?

What about other things happening around the world? Kirchner has said “the world is falling on top of us” in reference to global economic and financial problems. But these too, in this theological worldview, are happening because God wants them to happen.

The theistic preordination of affairs — and what some would call its atheistic counterpart, mechanistic determinism — have long stirred debate among philosophers of religion. If events are determined in advance, either by the mind of God or by the physical nature of the universe, then we must grapple with numerous logical questions, not the least of which is the famous problem of free will. How can we have it if we’re simply doing what God wants us to do? At what point do our own wants and desires enter into the equation, if at all?

Kirchner didn’t delve into any of this on Tuesday and it seems unlikely she will in the future. But who knows. Her speeches are unpredictable. Perhaps God wants it that way.

You can watch her make the comments above, starting at minute 13:00.

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Argentina Moves to Nationalize YPF

April 16th, 2012 | 08:11 PM


President Kirchner said Monday she will send a bill to Congress to nationalize the oil and gas company, YPF. Kirchner blames the company for falling oil and gas output, as well as the government’s growing need to import expensive fuel.

But it’s unclear how nationalizing the company will solve Argentina’s energy problems. Critics say the government itself is responsible for declining production. They cite unpredictable government policies and price caps, among other things, for the problems.

Raising production will require billions of dollars of investment in exploration and extraction. Where will that money come from now that the government will own the company?

Kirchner didn’t say.

Meanwhile, YPF’s parent company, Spain’s Repsol YPF, said it will fight the government’s decision, ensuring a lengthy and messy legal, political and economic battle over how the government will compensate Repsol for expropriating its top asset.

Within hours of the announcement, government officials were already in YPF’s building, located in Puerto Madero, taking over management of the company.

My colleagues and I wrote about the issue here for The Wall Street Journal.

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Argentine Demand For US Tourist Visas Soars

April 11th, 2012 | 07:36 AM

More and more Argentines are traveling to the U.S.

Demand for U.S. tourist visas has soared by around 50% over the past year, according to the embassy.

“Last year the U.S. received more than 500,000 visitors from Argentina,” the embassy said.

Visa demand is so high that the Buenos Aires embassy now ranks among the top 10 worldwide in terms of tourist visa applications.

On average, the embassy handles more than 1,300 visa application a day. To meet the increased demand, the embassy has opened a new processing center and hired additional personnel.

About a year ago it took approximately four months to get a visa interview. Now “the visa interview can be be obtained in less than a week,” the embassy said in a statement.

To pay for the additional personnel and run the processing center, the embassy said it is raising the B1/B2 tourist visa application fee to US $160 from $140.

“The new amount faithfully reflects the costs our embassy needs to recover under US law through the visa application fee,” the embassy said.

The embassy didn’t say why visa demand is rising, but tourism sector officials say rising purchasing power is one factor making it easier for Argentines to travel. Another is the fact that Argentines can now pay for plane tickets in quotas spread out over months or years.

One interesting trend is the “viaje de quince” — more and more teenage girls are flying with their friends and families to the U.S. to celebrate their 15th birthday.

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Argentine Vice President Boudou uses an iPhone

April 3rd, 2012 | 06:23 PM

As you may know, Argentina bans iPhone imports because Apple won’t produce them in the country. I wrote about this for The Wall Street Journal here.

But as I’ve noted before, the import ban hasn’t stopped some of Argentina’s top officials from using the world’s most popular smartphone themselves. For previous evidence of that click here.

In today’s post you can see that even Argentina’s vice president, Amado Boudou, uses an iPhone. As you can see from the screen grab above, Boudou, a big Apple fan, used an iPhoto to post to Twitter. Ironically, the above Tweets are about imports. In one, he criticizes people for complaining about a “lack” of goods, saying that people who do this have political motives.

Says Boudou: “Argentina is open to the world but let’s not destroy the local industry” with imports.

HT to Facebook user Javier Mondini for catching this. You can follow Boudou on Twitter here.

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Sean Penn Meets CFK on Haiti Promotion Tour

February 14th, 2012 | 06:20 AM

Sean Penn, the actor and newly-named Ambassador at Large for Haiti, came to Argentina as part of a broader trip to make sure people and governments in the region continue to help the disaster-stricken Caribbean nation.

Penn met with President Cristina Kirchner on Monday.

I met Penn and his J/P Haitian Relief Organization president Benjamin Krause at a dinner Monday night. Fernando Sulicin, producer extraordinaire and a mutual friend, Penn, Krause and others are doing absolutely amazing work in Haiti. They are literally making the world a better place day by day. These people are doing the kind of thing that most of us only think about.

Please check out J/P HRO here and donate to Haiti here.

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Photo: Cristina Kirchner and the Cult of Personality

February 3rd, 2012 | 06:36 AM

Look carefully at the mural hanging just behind Interior Minister Débora Giorgi.

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Argentina’s Awash in Constitutional Reform Talk

January 30th, 2012 | 08:08 AM

Last June I discussed the possibility that President Cristina Kirchner would try to reform the constitution so she could run for a third consecutive term.

Last week the president appeared to float a trial balloon to see how people would react to such a move.

The constitution currently allows only for two consecutive terms and hers expires in 2015.

On Friday virtually all of Argentina’s major newspapers reported that Vice President Amado Boudou had said it was important to debate the idea now, and not in three years time.

I wrote something like this for Dow Jones Newswires:

In radio interviews Friday, Boudou downplayed the controversial reports. But he didn’t deny all of them and he carefully worded his answers to leave the options open.

“It’s not time to talk about those things,” Boudou said in an interview with Radio 10. “I can’t say today what’s going to happen the day after tomorrow. We all experience unexpected and unpredictable things that aren’t in your schedule now but that might be in your schedule another day.”

Boudou admitted to being at a political event in a coastal city Thursday where constitutional reform was discussed. He said he was there as a “political militant” and that things discussed in such meetings should remain private.

“A lot of things were discussed,” he said.

It could be that Kirchner simply wants to keep the talk alive to avoid becoming a lame duck early in her term.

As the estimable journalist Roberto Guareschi noted via Twitter, “In a difficult year, the re-reelection will keep PJ barons cautious. And Malvinas talk might serve as a distraction.” (more…)

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