Friday, March 16, 2007

Kirchner's game

Conventional wisdom has it that Argentine President Néstor Kirchner is moving into Hugo Chávez’s camp. The two have made fuel deals and Venezuela has purchased $3 billion of Argentine bonds. Then while Bush was in Uruguay, Chávez gave a speech in Argentina denouncing him. The Miami Herald has a solid analysis laying out the delicate balance Kirchner is trying to strike, and the flavor is similar to the Cold War for non-aligned countries. You don’t want to openly alienate either side and you want to reap benefits from both. You get fuel from Venezuela, and talk terrorism with the U.S.

For the moment at least, it is possible Kirchner is ticking off both sides. Bush visited Uruguay and ignored Argentina, right when the two countries are in the midst of a major dispute over a paper mill, and did not mention Argentina with regard to biofuels. Chile’s La Tercera published a story arguing that Chávez also left the country angry with Kirchner. Why?

  • Chávez believed that a government official would attend his rally, but none did
  • There were only 20,000 people at the rally, which Chávez thought was too small, and he blamed Kirchner for not getting more people there
  • Chávez assured the crowd that the state’s television channel was showing the rally live, when in fact it wasn’t (instead, it was showing the first lady)
  • The Venezuelan embassy was informed that it needed to reimburse all the costs of the rally
  • Kirchner declined to accompany Chávez to Bolivia

I don’t think Argentina is in any “camp.” Kirchner will side at any given moment with whatever leader offers him something he wants. It may well be that he figures Argentina is important enough that he can anger each side at some point and still come out ahead.


Sine Metu 8:02 AM  

You have a very clear concept of what Peronismo is all about.

It's a tick that will suck the blood of any creature that passes near it.

Anonymous,  4:40 PM  

I don't think Kirchner is doing anything different than most of the other presidents in Latin America. Kirchner just owes Chavez more since Venezuela is buying Argentine debt. In the end it is Chavez who seems to be being used.

Did you happen to see the Bush trip summary on the Colbert Report last night? (I have it posted)

BTW, Chavez is being interviewed by B. Walters on ABC tonight, they also had an interview of Olga Wornat who has beeing investigating Chavez's personal life (it's very intersting).

Ulises Jorge Bidó 12:35 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin Delacour 1:55 PM  

I wouldn't necessarily take La Tercera's report at face value on this matter, and I would look with skepticism upon anything that the Miami Herald has to say about the subject. It's possible that Chavez came away annoyed in Argentina, but it's also possible that La Tercera is just making hay out of some anonymous source's conjecture. Forces in the hemisphere that despise Chavez tend to go out of their way to portray his government as isolated. The Miami Herald, El Universal (in Venezuela), and other newspapers are on a never-ending search for "rifts" between the "good left" (Kirchner, Lula, and Vazquez) and the "bad left" (Chavez, Morales and perhaps Correa). That's not to say that there aren't marked differences among left and center-left governments in South America, but the differences tend to be exaggerated by forces that seek to isolate Chavez.

Personally, I have my doubts that Chavez expected the Kirchner government to turn out people (and I have no idea whether the 20,000 turnout figure is accurate). Chavez has no illusions that Kirchner is radical or that he seeks open confrontation with the U.S. government, so the assertion that he expected the Kirchner government to take a central role in the anti-Bush rally strikes me as a bit outlandish.

Whatever the case, it is clear that Kirchner is closer to Chavez than he is to Bush. Botton line is that all the left and center-left governments of South America (except Chile's) are closer to Chavez than they are to Bush. That much was made clear by their support for Venezuela's U.N. Security Council bid.


Greg Weeks 2:51 PM  

I don't see the claims as all that implausible.

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