Cristina Fernandez ruffling feathers with the Falklands to mask domestic failings
Several British newspapers have turned their eyes on Argentina arguing that the challenging situation faced by President Cristina Fernandez both domestically and internationally is making her increasingly take advantage of the Falkland Islands dispute as a smokescreen to mask domestic failings.
“Faced with revolt over an ailing Argentine economy, with approval rating at record lows, a PR tour of United States universities which backfired and pay conflicts with the security and armed forces” have turned her particularly aggressive and insistent on the Falklands dispute but “aides admit she is using the issue and Islands as a smokescreen to mask domestic failings”
The Daily Telegraph recalls that the streets of Buenos Aires have been crammed with up to 200,000 people in recent marches deploring inflation, insecurity and alleged corruption. Economic growth which was 8% in 2011 and projected 3.4% this year, according to private estimates will really be as low as 1.5%.
Protectionist measures, including restrictions on purchasing dollars, have alienated the middle class while soaring public spending, much of which finances welfare schemes for the poor, has led to unofficial inflation of 24%. But government's statistics agency says the rate is 10% and researchers who publish higher figures are reprimanded.
“Marina Dal Poggetto, an economist whose Buenos Aires consultancy was fined 130.000 dollars, branded Cristina Fernandez a populist whose management of the economy is short-sighted.
Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, has stepped in by threatening Argentina with the red card if it does not improve the reliability of its data within 90 days.
But “a source close to the president conceded Cristina Fernandez knows her verbal attacks over the British Overseas Territory (Falklands), the latest of which came at the UN last month, are futile, but help to hide headlines over the country's faltering economy. She just wants to ruffle a few feathers, the source said.
Ruffling feathers to spark nationalist pride is a method not unfamiliar to the Argentine president. Earlier this year she seized Argentina's biggest oil company, YPF, by emergency decree from Repsol, the Spanish energy firm.
YPF is ours; it's Argentine, read triumphant posters plastered throughout Buenos Aires. But the government is still refusing to pay the 10 billion dollars in compensation demanded by Repsol, destroying relations with Spain.
Cristina Fernandez was re-elected a year ago in a landslide victory, but her approval rating has since plummeted 40 points to just 24%, according to the latest polls. Rampant crime, inflation, corruption, nepotism, patronage, her confrontational and arrogant style have eroded popularity.
Vice-President Amado Boudou, hand picked by her, is charged with influence peddling and embezzlement. But rather than take action against him, the Argentine government response was to expropriate the money printing house at the heart of the accusations.
Critics berate populist policies, including 'Football for Everyone', the transmission of domestic football matches on state television, which has cost the government nearly 1 billion dollars since 2009.
They also accuse Cristina Fernandez of authoritarianism. She does not give press conferences, but speaks frequently in nationwide TV and radio broadcasts supposed to be reserved for exceptional situations.
The government has even hosted debates on constitutional reform, which could remove presidential term limits and allow President Cristina to run again in 2015. And since polls show a brief surge in her popularity whenever she engages her effusive rhetoric over the Falklands she will likely resort again to such a tactic.
The Islands are being used for political ends, Mario Menéndez, the general who led Argentine troops during the Falklands War, told The Daily Telegraph.