Before I left for Argentina, I had a very close friend and mentor request that I do some polling on what Argentines think of the United States of America’s current presidential campaign race. She wanted to know how Argentines viewed American politics, considering the spectacle that is Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Hilary Rodham Clinton. Every time I venture down south is a blitz of visiting relatives and family friends– so I figured I could do some asking. The responses I got were surprising, and I ended up learning a hell of a lot more about Argentine politics than foreign perspectives on American political figures.
I proposed this question to each individual: What do you think of American politics right now, and what of the presidential nominees for 2016?
And nearly each one either disregarded American politics as unimportant or irrelevant, or made a remark regarding the stupidity of Donald Trump. That was it. A few referred to him as “boludo” or “tonto”–idiotic or stupid. Some people asked me who was running for president, who was Donald Trump, or whether Obama was coming to Argentina any time soon. I was surprised, honestly, to hear such a lack of interest. But I quickly corrected the eurocentric, self-centered response I had– because it makes complete sense that Argentines could care less about American politics. And there are two very, very important reasons why.
- The United States of America isn’t their country. A no-brainer.
- Argentina just went through (and still is) a historic political change.
And because of these two reasons, and more so the latter, Argentines are too preoccupied to pay attention to American politics. Thinking about it now, I too, find the current political (and economic) changes in Argentina to be worth paying attention to. With that said, my Argentine friends and family ended up elaborating far more on what was going on in their own country, politically, economically, and socially. My questions about the USA served as a mere segue into a greater discussion of Argentine politics. The following is a rendition of what they had to say.
Disclaimer: These comments are biased. They are the opinions of Argentines. Not all of them. This isn’t a generalization. In no way am I claiming or implying their points of view are fact, whether or not they are right are wrong. I would argue, though, that everything they had to tell me isn’t bullshit and is a product of living under a corrupt, manipulative Peronist government (in my opinion). And if you’re going to throw a fit over anything I write, remember you’re reading a blog, not a newspaper.
In November of 2015, Argentina experienced a historic moment in its political history. After living under Peronist rule for since 1916, and the last eight under Cristina Kirchner, the republic of Argentina elected Mauricio Macri as its new president. He took office in December of 2015. On paper, it sounds like a uninteresting headline and a slight change in South American government. But if you dig deeper, and ask Argentine people, you will get a much bigger, intense, and eye-opening depiction of how and why this change in government is so monumental.
Again, after speaking with Argentine friends and family, I was given a biased rendition of Argentine history, its politics, its last president, and its latest one. These individuals were by and large anti-Kirchneristas– meaning they did not support, approve of, much less like the outgoing president, Cristina Kirchner. For years I always saw posts complaining or villifying Kirchner on Facebook from those living in Argentina. I never really understood the complexity of what Kirchner was doing to and in Argentina, but I knew it wasn’t good. So after eight years living under Kirchnerista rule, the people of Argentina voted for someone who was neither Peronista nor Kirchnerista–a big deal.
Why did these people despise Kirchner so much? Their answer was short and sweet. So much that I don’t need to come up with an eloquently phrased statement about Argentine politics. Because it in some ways, the answer is simple. Cristina Kirchner ran Argentina’s economy into the ground. Inflation skyrocketed. Imports and exports were closed. Nepotism (see “noqui’s” below). Bankrupting the national bank. Creating debt. Lying. Murdering dissidents. These were all short answers given to me, appalling and crude as they may be.
It was explained to me that the last eight years have been economically and politically damning for Argentina. Kirchner’s economic and foreign policy weakened Argentina’s economy and relationship with other countries, under false promises and a web of lies that composed the propaganda she used to manipulate the Argentine people. While many claim (Kirchner herself included) she championed human rights, legalizing gay marriage for example, those whom I spoke to claim she was only bandwagoning on said issues already pushed forward by former presidents like (Raúl Alfonsín). Mind you, we’re talking about the former president, who refused to give up the official Twitter account of the Casa Rosada, as well as biting her thumb at Macri by refusing to attend and participate in
the traditional presidential inauguration ceremony.
I also was told that her government was made up of “noqui’s.” Noqui’s were essentially officials hired under the guise of nepotism, doing absolutely nothing for the government except having their name on payroll, and collecting their “hard earned” wages each month.
The death of prominent journalist Alberto Nisman in January of 2015 was also mentioned in these conversations, many claiming that Kirchner was behind it, no matter how indirectly she was involved– because Nisman accused her of halting and burying the investigation of the 1994 terrorist attack on a Jewish organization.
Nepotism and murder are serious allegations. And while everything I have written is based on hearsay, it doesn’t mean that it’s complete bull either. These are thoughts and concerns of real people, Argentines that have lived under Kirchnerista rule for over ten years, speaking with me candidly. These are conversations Argentines have amongst themselves everyday. You’d have to be a fool to not give it a second thought. But you would also be a fool if you believed everything someone says. Which is why you should follow president Macri’s actions towards taking down corrupt government officials.
Regardless of what you think or if you’re completely appalled by this blog post– it is still written. Argentines are talking about politics. Always. And contrary to what us gringos might think, Argentine discussion, dialogue, and narratives about their own politics far outweigh that of our own, boorish American ones. Just some food for thought.