Friday, November 18, 2011

Setting a new stage

by Pola Oloixarac for The New York Times international

While leaders in Europe and the United States struggle with the fallout of the economic downturn and public dissatisfaction with government, Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner recently captured 55 percent of the vote to serve as president for four more years. She’s one of the most popular leaders in South America and Argentina’s first elected female president.

Next door, President Sebastián Piñera is coping with widespread student protests and has lost much of the support he had after the 33 Chilean miners were rescued last year. Recent polls show only 26 percent now approve of his government. Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, is dealing with a restive indigenous population that helped put him in power but is now chafing over the rising influence of Brazil.

Meanwhile, Cristina’s second term in office was never in doubt. Her brand of populism, support of gay marriage and a hiring binge of state employees has proven irresistible to many Argentines.

Her popularity can be partly attributed to better days in Argentina, where the economy has grown for nine straight years, at rates second only to Peru in the region. But ten years after the debt default that brought down the Argentine economy, the enduring mystique of the Kirchners goes beyond the tide of stability and the spreading affluence, fueled by high commodity prices, that has coincided with their hold on the top office.

Néstor Kirchner was elected president of Argentina in May of 2003, and Cristina followed him by winning the presidential vote in October of 2007. The Kirchners found a way to update the power-couple iconography of General Juan Domingo Perón and Eva Perón in the 1940s. The Kirchners, surrounded by the national colors, waved together from the Casa Rosada balcony to the congregated masses, evoking images of the Peróns.

Cristina’s first term was tumultuous and full of drama. Like Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears, Cristina was also prone to seducing fans and aggravating opponents. She came forth as strong but humane, resolute but emotional, much as a convincing actress would impersonate the ideal of a Latin female leader. Evita had left her successful stage and film career to serve as a politician alongside her husband; Cristina took on the presidency as her personal stage. She was always at the center of the action. She liked suspense: to the dismay of her own supporters, the public and critics, she kept her script to herself until the last minute.

As Cristina continued the bullying style of government her husband was known for, she was criticized for being too authoritative, too stubborn. In a sexist yet broadly matriarchal society, Argentines reviled this behavior, but at the same time seemed to admire her for it. Many felt in their guts that the government indecisiveness was partly to blame for the 2001 crisis.

The Peronist Party has always thrived on manipulating the media. Perón had mourned his cancer-stricken, immensely popular and equally vilified wife Evita. When Néstor Kirchner died last year, Cristina reverted to the Perón-Evita role-play. She changed her style, appearing in dignified black dresses, carefully coiffed hair, thick eyelashes and smoky eye makeup. Her voice would often break down in public when alluding to her late spouse. As the national widow, she found the role in the play that suited her best: the lone woman in power, the vestal for the nation.

But this new Evita was not calling on the working classes as Evita had in her time. Cristina was winning over the middle class, those affected by the 2001 crisis, telling them what they wanted to hear — that there was a new Argentina that would include everyone.

Is it possible that 10 years from now, a Greek or an Italian politician, who is as unknown as Cristina was in 2001, will rival her in popularity? Who will rise and take advantage of the financial crisis?

The demonstrations that rocked Argentina in 2001, when the sound of banging pots filled the air in cities across the country, were more vehement and spontaneous than today’s Occupy Wall Street movement, though they share common threads.

The Argentine assemblies called themselves anti-system. They condemned financial speculation, endorsed recycling and professed a lost faith in the capitalist system. The assemblies of angry citizens, known as “cacerolazos,” saw politicians as traitors to the state, but did not offer political alternatives to a system they felt was corrupt. Assemblies alone couldn’t bring about change; it took a savvy politicians like the Kirchners to channel the discontent.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better administration,” said Carlos Daniel Sturla, 37, a lawyer from Buenos Aires. “It’s like she’s finally building the country we all wanted to see.”

No Argentine would have said that a decade ago. Is there a chance a new power couple will emerge and sift through the anger that is driving protests around the world today, inspire citizens and unite a country ?


simpática y puntual said...

increíble, the new york times, groso!

chica en minifalda said...

bien Po!!! buenísimo!!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on an interesting article in an important venue.

Cecilio said...

Lo leí rápido debo admitir.

El peronismo no es el musical de A.L.W., tampoco es el fascismo italiano de los años 40 ni el nacionalsocialismo del amigo Adolf.

Tampoco es un ideario de libertades y derechos desinteresados y altruistas.

Lo de la manipulación de los medios me parece más bien una práctica que goza de bastante equidad partidaria y hasta es un rasgo más característico de los conservadores. El peronista lo hace pero le gusta más jugarla de víctima de los poderosos medios que lo censuran y difaman, y que a pesar de eso logra heroicamente sobreponerse por el pueblo. Recomiendo que relean "Montoneros, la soberbia armada".

En una charla informal con un amigo, y ya que se habló de machismo en la nota, nos dimos cuenta (o él quizás, no recuerdo)que aunque Cristina emule, o se haga, o trate de hacerse la Evita, la realidad (y sería bueno analizar esto y publicar algo) es que la evita del 2000 es Néstor y el Perón que usa la estampita del Mártir es CFK. Si bien incomparables, por calidad discursiva, carisma, circunstancias históricas, etc., el peronismo tiene que admitir que la evita es Nestor Kirchner, por su final y su rol, y CFK es una especie de Perón del 74, con un Brujito y unos Montoneritos light incluídos.

Entonces yo le exijo al peronismo que diga que Cristina es el General y que Néstor dignifica, aunque sea por una cuestión lógica y porque no me gusta la discriminación de género. Nestor es Evita (no el eternauta o The Sandman), y debería ser un orgullo sentir y decir eso para un cualquier peronista.

Esta es para Pola y es un poco bardera y discutible, pero ¿que onda la traducción "The Peronist Party"? MMMMMMMMmmmmm... no es incorrecta pero yo la haría distinta. Te amo mucho mucho, lo sabés. ¡Saludos!

Igual estoy de acuerdo con el fondo de la cuestión planteada, y es así de triste. Pero más tristes y patéticos son los que no la votaron, o los que representaron a esa gente porque hacía falta solamente un poco de sentido común y mínima cintura política para capitalizar a su favor tanto arsenal a disposición. Fuck off!

No Such User said...

merci amiguitos!

cecilio: también había notado el símil que proponés, pero me aburría seguir retorciendo el tejido de símbolos peronistas para una audiencia internacional. en todo caso el peronist party (la fiesta peronista) siempre se trató de una organización de tipo militar (creo que en algo acuerda con eso tu citado gasparini).

Cecilio said...

Sí, hay cosas más interesantes para hacer. Comentario aburrido y provocador sin razón alguna. Gracias por publicarlo (noblesse oblige) pero en el futuro podés descartar estos bodríos (los míos) que no aportan nada y aburren, incluso este mismo. ¡Saludos Pola!

Your humble servant said...

Buenísimo, Pola!

un beso!

santiveron said...

cecilio, tranquilo, están bien tus comentarios. firma: los otros lectores del blog

Jennifer White said...

La comparación de Cristina con Britney Spears y L. Lohan me parece una de las cosas más boludas que oí en los últimos tiempos. Y mirá que con Lanata tenemos boludeces a rolete.
Me parece que cuando decís "a hiring binge of state employees" estás malinterpretando la reconstrucción del Estado después de la desarticulación neoliberal.
Y hacía falta citar a "un abogado de Buenos Aires"? La próxima (o sea, la próxima vez que escribas una nota sobre peronismo en inglés para el New York Times desde un café con wifi gratis en Holanda) poné el testimonio de Mirta de Palermo que va a ser un poco más significativo.