By: Weston Ballard, Lauren Weidenfeller, Jaideep Mangat, Jackson Rueter
On February 18th, Argentine federal prosecutors organized a silent march in demand of truth and justice surrounding the murder one month previously of Alberto Nisman. Nisman, a federal prosecutor, was just one day away from making a landmark testimony against Argentine President, Christina Fernandez Kirchner. He accused her and other top officials of trying to cover up a deal to shield Iranian officials from responsibility in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.
Rumors and conspiracy theories have raged throughout Argentina and the rest of the world surrounding the true fate of Nisman (left); was it a suicide, the work of rogue spies, or an effort by the President to maintain the cover-up Nisman threatened to expose? Unfortunately there are more questions than answers.
The Nisman murder is not the first mystery in Argentina’s political past. Argentina’s history is riddled with the corruption and shady political action—including the infamous “Dirty War”– though on the surface the country appears to have all the keys for democratic success. It is the political actors underneath this seemingly stable political surface that defines Argentine politics.
Argentina has a governmental structure very similar to that of the United States. However, where Argentine politics differentiates itself is in the parties and people who fill the roles within the government.
Argentina has three major parties, though each party has its own unique factions within them. Each faction has the ability to submit their own candidate for election, because though there is an optional primary process, and the major parties use it, people will still run as Justicialist Party “dissidents” under a faction name. The three major parties are: the Partido Justicialista (Justicialist Party), Broad Front UNEN, and the Republican Proposal.
At first glance, the factions within parties appear as different parties with similar ideals. However, this would be the equivalent to the Tea Party (a subset of the Republican party) nominating a candidate that runs in addition to the Republican candidate, which fractures the party’s votes among different candidates, and essentially takes some power away from the party.
The fractured political nature of Argentina’s governmental system will come alive with the coming 2015 Presidential Election. Not only will the fate of the Nisman murder cast a deciding shadow on the future of the Kirchner’s Front for Victory faction of the Justicialist party in the coming election, but other pressing issues exist as well. While some assume that issues needing attention are focused around social issues such as marriage equality or fair representation of women in the workplace, Argentina is more progressive in these regards than many well-established global leaders (I’m looking at you, USA). Argentina needs to focus on key lacking infrastructure areas as well as becoming economically viable again.
Argentina’s 2015 Presidential election will have 3 predominant themes of discussion: reducing inflation, stabilizing the exchange rate, and returning to the international market. After decades of economic uncertainty, inflation has been hard to address with no concrete monetary power held by the federal government. This issue is exacerbated by the currency issue present in the country. Blue, green, gray—Argentina has more colors for their currency than a chameleon has shades of skin. With problematic exchange controls being implemented in 2011, many feel as though the only way to move back to stabilization of the exchange rate is to drop these controls, something that can only be done when Kirchner leaves office. The next administration’s responsibility will be to find an integrative solution to both appeasing the demands of the nation’s workers and the demands of a hungry debt crisis anxious to grow.
With the next president set to inherit a struggling economy, the public is also going to be looking at how each candidate intends to tie in a plan to work with global counterparts to address energy dependencies as well as expanding the idea of free trade. The stance of the next President on energy and free trade will not only define the future global reputation and proven alliances of Argentina, but also how well the domestic economy will be able to thrive and move into sustainability and ease of adoption of high-tech industries.
While there are more than these topics that need to be addressed in Argentina, such as a stronger strategy for utilizing subsidies to aid domestic production in global competition and ridding the Argentine Bureau of Labor and Statistics of corruption and false information about the current conditions of the nation, Argentina must focus on the issues discussed above in order to have a firm grasp of order and dedication to long-term success.
For now, the current office remains faced with these issues while simultaneously clouded with a more urgent affair: the daunting controversy surrounding the mysterious Nisman murder. President Kirchner (right) has been active in communicating with the Argentine people regarding all aspects of her presidency. While protesters may be using silence to make a statement regarding Nisman’s murder, President Kircher is voicing herself– loudly. An avid Twitter user (@CFKArgentina), her followers exceed 3.6 million. Unlike in the United States, where every presidential statement is filtered through dozens of aids and PR experts, Kirchner expresses her thoughts directly to the public and sometimes with little apparent foresight. Her twitter feed is mainly composed of tweets of statistics proving her positive influence, international relations comments, and often whatever thoughts cross her mind.
In reference to the recent silent protests regarding the Nisman murder, Kirchner insists, “We’ll keep our songs, our joy and our chants of ‘Long live the Motherland. Let [the marchers] have their silence.” Her relative insensitivity regarding the nature of the circumstances is nothing new. On a February visit to China for the purpose of prompting Chinese investment in various Argentine infrastructure projects, President Kirchner brashly tweeted a quote mocking the accent of Chinese president Xi Jinping.
A distorted image of politics all too typically portrayed when media is involved. In Argentina this is especially apparent because many of the media companies have strong political ties and are owned by powerful families. Facts are obscured and corrupted to portray the image of a country entirely able to handle and survive a crisis.
In Argentina we hope to look past the eye catching titles in the media and get an underground scoop of what is truly going on by speaking to locals and receiving a different point of view. President Fernandez uses social media in particular as an important avenue to communicate with the people, but how much of that information is accurate enough to be considered a reliable source?
Twitter and other social media sites are easily manipulated and have the power to effectively increase a politician’s popularity if they are used correctly. President Fernandez has discovered this fact, but has also made some unwise remarks that have coincided with a deserving amount of flack as a result. Tweeting about improving education and other projects to help children can do nothing but promote her as a leader, however poorly-mannered statements mocking other ethnicities, like the Chinese, put a negative thought in her follower’s minds. In Argentina, we plan to look more deeply into how social media has influenced Fernandez’s popularity.
A key characteristic of social media is that it is convenient and widely accessible. It is not subject to the censorship political leaders— regular citizens can use it to voice their opinions and raise awareness of political events planning to happen. A month after Alberto Nisman was murdered, federal prosecutors led a gathering of hundreds of thousands of locals to protest in the pouring rain in demand of justice for Nisman. How can you gather that many people at the same place at the same time? Social media is key. The people’s influence is strong in Argentina and social media usage is proving this. We will look deeper into how marches and rallies develop with the help of social media.
The 2015 Presidential Election in Argentina is a pivotal moment in the nation’s history. As a long-standing political powerhouse, the Kirchner’s are finally leaving the presidential spot vacant. Argentina has just faced its second default as a nation, and the economic and monetary policy is out of control. This election could very well decide the fate of what has historically been one of the most dominant economic powers in Latin America, as well as determine who and what Argentina is for years to come. This is Argentina’s chance to emerge as a new nation, and it’s new legacy begins with the presidential vote in October 2015. The outcome is anticipated to be just as much of a surprise as the President’s next tweet—and we can’t wait to experience Argentina’s lively political atmosphere first-hand.