Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cristina... Cristina...

The Queen Cristina.
Queen and 'Presidenta', right.

"We know what's necessary. We know how to do it. Cristina, Cobos y vos"

Powerful women are nothing new in Argentine politics but next week Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, wife of the current leader of Argentina, is almost certain to move from her role as first lady to become the first ever elected "presidenta."

Her colorful character has often eclipsed her husband Nestor Kirchner.

Eva Peron set the mold in the 1950's as the wife of dictator Juan Peron, but in more recent times, women across Latin America have been reaching the top via the ballot box, including Chile's president Michelle Bachelet.
Fernandez, a center-left politician for the ruling party, is expected to crush her opponents in the presidential election on October 28.
She met her husband Nestor Kirchner when they were both law students in her hometown of La Plata in the 1970's. They married in 1975 and have two children. Kirchner served three terms as Santa Cruz governor, while Fernandez is a three-term senator now representing powerful Buenos Aires province.
Comparisons have been made between the Kirchners and the Clintons. Like Bill and Hillary, the couple are said to consult each other on everything, especially political matters, and Kirchner is his wife's cheerleader-in-chief, promising she'll be an even better president than him.
While economic and political stability may have been welcomed by many, some analysts are wary of the close relationship dominating Argentine politics.
"There is no political debate in this country right now," Walter Curia, an editor at the newspaper Clarín told The New York Times. "The only debate is within the walls of the Pink House."
As long as they keep trading places and winning elections, the couple could stay in the Casa Rosada indefinitely, sidestepping the constitutional limit of eight consecutive years in office.

A different face in politics

Fernandez' glamorous image, love of designer clothes and jet-set lifestyle has earned her the nickname "Queen Cristina" by the Argentine press.
Many in Argentina also see her bossy and authoritarian, something leveled at Hillary Clinton before her image-makeover.
"Humility is not her strong point," Michael Shifter, vice president for policy at Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, said in The New York Times.
However her passion seems to be striking a chord with voters. A poll in early October put Kirchner 20 points clear of her rivals.
At a campaign rally in Buenos Aires, the stadium thundered with the chants of 7,000 fans: "We feel it! We feel it! Cristina, president!"
"Get used to it," she responded, wagging a finger. "It's Presidenta!"
Still, inflation is high, corruption scandals have tarnished Kirchner's government, and the opposition is trying to capitalize on fears the couple will become what rival campaigns call "una monarkia," spelling the word for monarchy with a K for Kirchner.
"There is a risk she will be so captivated by international politics and foreign relations that she will avoid the mounting problems in Argentina," Shifter told The New York Times.

Overshadowing her husband

With her long brown hair and glamorous manner, Fernandez has often overshadowed her husband at campaign rallies. In her fiery way she has become a leading advocate for the center-left.
As far back as 2003, she angrily pounded her Senate desk as she demanded the Supreme Court repeal amnesty for officials accused of crimes during the 1976-83 military dictatorship, when as many as 30,000 Argentines were kidnapped and killed, including some of the Kirchners' friends.
The high court listened, scrapped the amnesty, and "dirty war" trials resumed last year.
Argentines are only now overcoming a deep distrust of elected officials, bred by hyperinflation, recession, corruption and failed promises in the first years of the new millennium. These woes provoked huge street protests that forced a succession of presidents from office.
Kirchner's election in 2003 restored stability to the government. It also brought pragmatism. Like Kirchner, Fernandez takes care to avoid raising expectations of radical change, but many Argentines would be happy if she simply keeps her promise to continue the economic recovery begun by her husband


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