Southern Exposure

Desde as Entranhas dos Labirintos Latinos.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Last week in Argentina...

Voting early and often: There were a few elections at the state level and below during the weekend, consolidating president Kirchner's power by giving him his own majority in Congress, and the support of most governors.

The state of EntreRíos' governorship went to justicialist candidate Jorge Busti (with the explicit support of President Kirchner), while in the southernmost state, Tierra del Fuego, three lower House seats were evenly split between Lilita Carrió's ARI, the justicialists, and the local "Frente de Unidad Provincial".

A quick note for our American readers and others living in a (mostly) two-party political system: it really simplifies things. While the last national election and president Kirchner's political maneuvering have consolidated the power of the justicialist (peronist) party at the national level, state-level parties traditionally play important, sometimes even hegemonic, political roles.

An example is Rodriguez Saa's "Alianza Frente Movimiento Popular", which last Saturday got more than 70% of the votes in the state San Luis, grabbing of course the two lower House seats that were in play. If the name Rodriguez Saa sounds familiar, you've got very quick reflexes: he was president of the country for a few days after de la Rua's ousting in 2001. Unlike his replacement Duhalde, Saa lacked the clout in the peronist party (where he technically belongs) to keep himself in power, but during his brief period in power he had the country default on its international debts, and ended his presidency with an intermittent, interference-filled, almost apocalyptic televised discourse from his home state. Later, he run for the presidency in the last national elections, but performed remarkably poorly.

Finally, in the state of Corrientes the governing coalition of peronists and radicals (that's the "Union Cívica Radical", ironically the archetypical centrist party in Argentina, and usually the peronist party's arch-rivals) won two out of the three open seats in the Senate, with the remaining one going to "Tato" Romero Feris' "Partido Nuevo". Corrientes being my birth state, I could tell you stories of political maneuvering, crime, legal chicanery, corruption, drugs, marches, kidnappings, and general stereotypically Latin-American politics that would make Florida in 2000 look like a textbook example of a clean election. But then we'd get sidetracked in this local wackyness, and never get to the national wackyness.

Strange calls: Kidnappings (and violent crime in general) is perhaps the most politically charged theme in Argentina, practically and industry on itself. So there is a lot of concern about suspicions of links between military personnel and kidnappers. Although some dismiss these allegations as an attempt by the Policía Bonaerense to deflect this same charges directed at it, if proven true it would devastate the already historically low standing of the military in Argentina.

Miscelanea that happens almost every week someplace or another: After "cleaning house" in the Postal Service, the government is going after Aguas Argentinas (the privatized water company)... Yesterday there were episodes of violence in a march in southern Neuquén, and some traffic chaos in Buenos Aires... A partial banking strike... And security forces are in alert for possible terrorists attacks in Buenos Aires.



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