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Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner


Cristina Elizabet Fernandez de Kirchner , commonly known as Cristina Fernandez or Cristina Kirchner, is the current President of Argentina. A member of the Justicialist Party, she was a Senator for Buenos Aires Province prior to taking office. She is the wife of former President of Argentina Nestor Kirchner, and acted as First Lady during his term.

In the October 2007 general election, Fernandez ran for the presidency of Argentina, representing the ruling Front for Victory party. She won with 45.3% of the vote, a 22% lead over her nearest rival. This was one of the widest margins obtained by a candidate since democracy returned in 1983, and it avoided the need for a runoff election. She is Argentina's first elected female President, and the second female President ever to serve .

Personal life

Fernandez was born in Tolosa, a suburb west of La Plata, Province of Buenos Aires, daughter of Eduardo Fernandez and Ofelia Esther Wilhelm. She studied law at the National University of La Plata during the 1970s. During her studies there, she met her future spouse, Nestor. They were married on March 9, 1975, and had two children: Maximo and Florencia. Florencia received international media attention during early 2008 when she started keeping a Fotolog.

Political career

Fernandez started her political career in the Peronist Youth movement of the Justicialist Party in the 1970s. During the period of authoritarian rule in the country, she and Nestor dropped out of politics and practiced law in Rio Gallegos. She picked up politics again in the late 1980s, and was elected to the Santa Cruz Provincial Legislature in 1989, a position to which she was re-elected in 1993.

In 1995 Fernandez was elected to represent Santa Cruz in the Senate. She was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1997, and in 2001, returned to the Senate. Fernandez provided the main backbone to her husband's successful campaign for the presidency in 2003, against two other Justicialist candidates and several other competitors. In the April 27, 2003, presidential election first round, former president Carlos Saul Menem won the greatest number of votes (25%), but failed to get the votes necessary to win an overall majority. A second-round run-off vote between Menem and runner-up Nestor Kirchner was scheduled for May 18. Feeling certain that he was about to face a resounding electoral defeat, Menem decided to withdraw his candidacy, thus automatically making Kirchner the new president, with 22% of the votes (the lowest number in the history of the country).

During her husband's term, Fernandez became an itinerant ambassador for his government. Her highly combative speech style polarized Argentine politics, recalling the style of Eva Peron. Although she repeatedly rejected the comparison later, Cristina once said in an interview that she identified herself "with the Evita of the hair in a bun and the clenched fist before a microphone" (the typical image of Eva Peron during public speeches) more than with the "miraculous Eva" of her mother's time, who had come "to bring work and the right to vote for women".

Fernandez was the main candidate for Senator of the Front for Victory faction of her party in the province of Buenos Aires, for the October 2005 elections, in a heated campaign directed mainly against Hilda Gonzalez de Duhalde, the wife of former president Eduardo Duhalde. Kirchner won the elections by a 25% margin over Gonzalez de Duhalde.

Election to Presidency of Argentina

With Fernandez leading all the pre-election polls by a wide margin, her challengers were trying to force her into a run-off. She needed either more than 45% of the vote, or 40% of the vote and a lead of more than 10% over her nearest rival, to win outright. Fernandez won the election in the first round with 45.3% of the vote, followed by 22% for Elisa Carrio (candidate for the Civic Coalition) and 16% for former Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna. Eleven others split the remaining 15%. Kirchner was popular among the suburban working class and the rural poor, while Carrio received more support from the urban middle class, as did Lavagna. Of note, Kirchner lost the election in the three largest cities , although she won in most other places elsewhere, including the large provincial capitals such as Mendoza and Tucuman.

The president elect began a four-year term on December 10, 2007, facing challenges including inflation, union demands for higher salaries, private investment in key areas, lack of institutional credibility , utility companies demanding authorization to raise their fees, low availability of cheap credit to the private sector, and the upcoming negotiation of the defaulted foreign debt with the Paris Club.

Cabinet

On November 14, the president-elect publicly announced the names of her new cabinet, which was sworn in on December 10. Of the 12 ministers appointed, seven were already ministers in Nestor Kirchner's government, while the other five took office for the first time. Two other ministerial posts were created afterwards.

Presidency

2007

During the first days of Fernandez's presidency, Argentina's relations with the United States deteriorated as a result of allegations made by a United States assistant attorney of illegal campaign contributions, case known as the maletinazo (suitcase scandal). According to these allegations, Venezuelan agents tried to pressure a Venezuelan-American citizen (Guido Antonini Wilson) to lie about the origin of $790,550 in cash found in his suitcase on August 4, 2007 at a Buenos Aires airport. U.S. prosecutors allege the money was sent to help Kirchner's presidential campaign. Some of the allegations were proven and several individuals received a prison sentence after a widely reported trial.

Fernandez and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez called the allegations "a trashing operation" and part of a conspiracy orchestrated by the U.S. to divide Latin American nations. On December 19, 2007, she restricted the U.S. ambassador's activities and limited his meetings to Foreign Ministry officials; a treatment reserved for hostile countries, in the opinion of a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State.

However, on January 31, in a special meeting with Kirchner, the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, Earl Anthony Wayne, clarified that the allegations "were never made by the United States government," and the dispute cooled down. Having said that the prosecutors making the charges are part of the independent judicial branch of the U.S. government

Elisa Carrio and Maria Estenssoro, both high ranking members of the main opposition parties, have claimed that the Argentine government's response to the allegations and its criticism of the U.S. are a "smokescreen", that the U.S. involvement in the affair was merely symptomatic, and the root cause of the scandal is corruption in the Argentine and Venezuelan governments.

2008

Riding a wave of approval during a dramatic economic recovery from a 2001-02 crisis, the Kirchners' FPV had prevailed enjoyed increasingly large majorities in Congress, reaching their peak following the 2007 general elections . In March 2008, Kirchner introduced a new sliding-scale taxation system for agricultural exports, effectively raising levies on soybean exports from 35% to 44% at the time of the announcement. This led to a nationwide lockout by farming associations, starting on March 12, with the aim of forcing the government to back down on the new taxation scheme. They were joined on March 25 by thousands of pot-banging demonstrators massed around the Buenos Aires Obelisk and in front of the presidential palace.

Protests extended across the country. In Buenos Aires, hours after Kirchner attacked farmers for their two-week strike and "abundant" profits, there were violent incidents between government supporters and opponents, to which the police was accused of wilfully turning a blind eye. The media was harshly critical of Luis D'Elia, a former government official who took part in the incidents, with some media sources and members of the opposition (notably Elisa Carrio), claiming that he and his followers had disrupted the protest pursuant to the government's orders. On April 1, the government organised a rally during which thousands of pro-government protesters marched through downtown Buenos Aires in support of the bill increasing Argentina's export taxes on the basis of a sliding scale; at the event, Kirchner called on farmers to act "as part of a country, not as owners of a country."

In April 2008, on the 26th anniversary of the Falklands War, Kirchner stepped up Argentine claims to the Falkland Islands. She called Argentina's rights to the islands "inalienable".

The large majorities in the Argentine Congress enjoyed by the Front for Victory could not ultimately guarantee a legislative blank check: on July 16, 2008, the presidentially-sponsored bill met with deadlock, and was ultimately defeated by the tie-breaking "no" vote of Vice President Julio Cobos himself. The controversy cost the FPV 16 Congressmen and 4 Senators by way of defections. This put an end to the 2008 Argentine government conflict with the agricultural sector, though it cost Cobos access to the executive branch of the government. He was reportedly cosidered "a traitor" by the followers of Kirchner's administration. Cobos denied that he would resign, although the relationship between the President and the Vice President has an uncertain future. Clarin: Crisis politica tras el sorpresivo voto del Vicepresidente Cobos

A poll result published in El Pais, Spain's most widely circulated daily newspaper, revealed that following the protests, Fernandez's approval rating had "plummeted" from 57.8% at the start of her administration to an unprecedented 23%. Once recovered from the conflict with agrarian interests, Cristina Kirchner's public approval improved; her job approval ratings rose by 30% . Her inflexible handling of the protests and reluctance to review the policies that sparked the protest have led to speculation that it is her husband, predecessor in office and current leader of the Justicialist Party, Nestor Kirchner, who controls her administration. The British weekly newspaper The Economist has described this situation as Kirchner "paying the price for her husbands pig-headedness", and as of February 2009, her job approval rating was 28%. Colombia Reports

On October 20, 2008, Fernandez proposed the transfer of nearly US$30 billion in private pension holdings to the social security system, a law that was passed by Congress in late November.

President Cristina Kirchner is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development.

Fernandez was invited to the prestigious Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy in Washington, D.C., on November 15, 2008, by President George W. Bush. During her stay in Washington, she held meetings with Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown), Madeleine Albright (representing U.S. President-elect Barack Obama), Senator Christopher Dodd and Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd at the Park Hyatt Hotel. She then attended the G20 meeting in London April 2, 2009 and was given a seat of honour at the dinner held the night before at 10 Downing Street, when she was seated across from President Obama. The Guardian

Cristina Kirchner has travelled extensively as president, visiting Algeria, Brazil, Cuba, Egypt, France, Libya, Mexico, Qatar, Russia, Spain, the UK, the U.S. and Venezuela, among other nations.

2009

Following the June 28, 2009, mid-term elections, the ruling FPV's party list lost its absolute majority in both houses of Congress, shedding a further 24 seats in the Lower House (including allies) and 4 in the Senate. They lost in the four most important electoral districts (home to 60% of Argentines), and among these, the loss was narrow only in the Province of Buenos Aires. The FPV obtained a very narrow victory, overall, as a percentage of the national vote, and retained their plurality in Congress. This will be reflected in strengthened opposition alliances, notably the center-right Union Pro, the center-left Civic Coalition and the left-wing Proyecto Sur, when elected candidates in both chambers take office on December 11, 2009. Clarin: Infografia

Allegations of impropriety have contributed increasingly to the Kirchners' decline in approval, as well. The couple's own, latest federal financial disclosure in July 2009 revealed an increase in their personal assets by 7 times, since Nestor Kirchner's 2003 inaugural. The increase was partly the product of land deals in El Calafate, a scenic, Santa Cruz Province town where the couple has long vacationed and own property (including 450 acres of land and two hotels). El Mundo

On October 17, 2009, President Cristina Kirchner proposed the compulsory submission of DNA samples in cases related to crimes against humanity, in a move lauded by the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, but excoriated by opposition figures as a political move against Clarin Media Group Chairperson Ernestina Herrera de Noble, who is in litigation over her suspected adoption of two children of the "disappeared," and whose hitherto cordial relations with Kirchnerism had recently soured. El Pais Similar motives are alleged by the opposition against the president's Media Law, which would restrict the number of media licences per proprietor and allocate a greater share of these to state and NGOs, thereby limiting the influence of Clarin and the conservative La Nacion. The president's proposed enactment of mandatory primary elections for all of Argentina's myriad political parties, and for every elected post, was likewise rejected by opposition figures, who charged that these reforms could stymy minor parties and the formation of new ones. Clarin: Los principales puntos (10/28/2009) Clarin: Fuerte rechazo de la oposicion

Following charges of embezzlement filed by a local attorney, Enrique Piragini, on October 29, Federal Judge Norberto Oyarbide ordered an accounting expert to investigate the origin of the Kirchners wealth. Public records show that since their arrival to power in 2003, the declared assets of Cristina and Nestor Kirchner have increased by 572%. A preliminary report on the investigation by the Argentine Anti Corruption Office (OA) established that the official figures provided by the Kirchners "don't stack up". The investigation was suspended by Judge Oyarbide on December 30, though a week later, Piragini appealed the ruling. Clarin: Intentan reabrir la investigacion

2010

The year began with controversy surrounding the president's order that a US$6.7 billion escrow account be opened at the Central Bank for the purpose of retiring high-interest bonds, whose principal is tied to inflation. The move met with the opposition of Central Bank President Martin Redrado, who refused to implement it, and following an impasse, he was dismissed by presidential decree on January 7, 2010. Clarin (1/7/2010)

Redrado refused to abide by the initial decree removing him from the presidency of the Central Bank, however, and petitioned for a judicial power to keep him in office. Accordingly, the president enacted another decree for his dismissal, citing "mis-conduct" on Redrado's part. The legitimacy of this new decree was questioned as well, as his dismissal would deny Redrado due process. Congress was at a recess period at the time, but most of its opposition members considered returning to override the decrees through an extraordinary session. La Nacion (1/7/2010) The session became a source of controversy as well: Kirchner considered that, according to the 63rd article of the Constitution, only the President may call for an extraordinary session while the Congress is in recess. Cobos replied instead that all regulations concerning decrees require the immediate advise and consent of Congress, that the body's by-laws (56 and 57) allow extraordinary sessions called by any member, and that the commission formed for that purpose functions all at all times, even during recess. Clarin: Autoconvocatoria legislativa

The planned use of foreign exchange reserves through presidential decree was itself questioned by several opposition figures, who argued that such a decree may not meet a threshold of "necessity" and "urgency" required by the Constitution of Argentina for its enactment. Judge Maria Jose Sarmiento handed down a ruling preventing said use of reserves, and the Government reacted by appealing the ruling. La Nacion: La Casa Rosada confirma que apelara el fallo que frena el uso de reservas President Kirchner defended the policy as a cost saving maneuver, whereby government bonds paying out 15 percent interest would be retired from the market. Clarin: Cristina volvio a defender el uso de las reservas The move, however, also provided numerous vulture funds (holdouts from the 2005 debt restructuring who had resorted to the courts in a bid for higher returns on their defaulted bonds) a legal argument against the central bank's autarky, and thus facilitated a judgement lien on January 12 against a central bank account in New York. Clarin: Embargaron fondos del Central en EE.UU.

Judge Sarmiento also annulled the decree that removed Redrado and reinstated him as President of the Central Bank the following day. The ruling also refuted claims of mis-conduct cited by President Cristina Kirchner to justify his removal. La Nacion: Redrado volvio al Banco Central International media described the attempted removal of Redrado as authoritarian, while criticizing the planned use of reserves for debt retirement, as well as accelerating spending growth, as fiscally irresponsible. Opposition Congresswoman Elisa Carrio, a likely candidate in the upcoming 2011 presidential campaign, has raised the possibility of impeachment procedures against Mrs. Kirchner. El Mundo New York Times: Argentine President Fires Central Bank Chief Le Monde: L'Argentine plonge dans une crise institutionnelle

Cristina Fernandez and her husband Nestor were in January 2010 reported to the Judiciary because of "illicit gain". It was reported that their personal fortune grew surprisingly too much from the period of 2007 to 2008. This incident came on the heels of the issues with the Central Bank and Martin Redrado.

At the start of the month of February 2010, one of Cristina's private asessors resigned his post due to the claims of "illicit gain". Just two weeks afterwards, another of Cristina's private asesors, Julio Daniel Alvarez, resigned for the same reason.

Relationship with the media

Fernandez and her husband have always had a tempestuous relationship with the national media. In April 2008, Kirchner received a stern public rebuke from the Argentine Journalists Association (ADEPA) for having publicly accused the popular cartoonist Hermenegildo Sabat of behaving like a "quasi mafioso". In addition, a government proposal to create a watchdog to monitor racism and discrimination was received with suspicion by ADEPA, who called it a "covert attempt to control the media". Nestor Kirchner, Cristina's husband and predecessor in office, received a similar rebuke for publicly and falsely denouncing Joaquin Morales Sola, a journalist critical of the government, for having produced an inflammatory text published in 1978.

On September 11, 2009, she advanced the decriminalization of injurious calumny against public officials, a charge which had, in 2000, resulted in a prison term of one year for Eduardo Kimel, a journalist investigating the San Patricio Church massacre of 1976. Clarin: Cristina envio un proyecto para despenalizar calumnias e injurias She drew fire from a highly controversial Audiovisual Media Law proposed shortly afterwards, however. Defended by the government as a reform intended to fragment ownership of media companies as to encourage plurality of opinion, the bill was criticised by the opposition as a means to silence voices critical of the government, especially those in the Clarin media group (the country's largest).

The law has aroused further controversy, given that in its passing through the chambers of the legislature, the mandatory 7 day period between debate and assent of the new legislation was ignored. The view among the opposition is that Kirchners government is trying to rush the law through parliament before December 2009. when the government will lose its absolute majorities in Congress.

Dr. Lauro Laino, the president of ADEPA, in a speech given on the 24 September 2009, opposed the proposed law, and added that in Latin America, especially in Venezuela and Argentina, press freedom was being undermined under the suspicious pretext of plurality Others, notably press freedom advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontieres, have expressed some support for the measure, citing the need to repeal the Radio Broadcast Law of 1980 enacted by the National Reorganization Process, Argentina's last military government.

The acrimony between Cristina Kirchner's government and the national media was exacerbated by a series of lock-ins carried out by the truck drivers' union lead by Pablo Moyano, son of Hugo Moyano, a close ally of the Kirchner government. During the lock in, the country's most widely circulated newspapers (Clarin and La Nacion) were prevented by force and threats of violence from distributing papers to newsstands. On 7 November 2009, the Association of Newspaper Editors of Buenos Aires (AEDBA) issued a statement in which it claimed that the truck drivers' unions' actions had been the fiercest attack on the free circulation of newspapers the country had seen since its return to democratic rule in 1983.

Malvinas Oil Crisis

On February 22, 2010, British oil explorer Desire Petroleum, started drilling exploration wells some 60 miles north of the disputed Falkland/Malvinas Islands, despite strong opposition from Argentina. Britain and Argentina waged a 74-day war over the sovereignty of the islands in 1982. The row over oil has left relations at their worst since the Falklands War. According to geological surveys carried out in 1998, there could be 60 billion barrels of oil in the area around these southern islands. Desire Petroleum's own studies have confirmed close to three billion barrels of oil.

On February 16th Anibal Fernandez, chief of staff to Argentinas president, announced that ships sailing between Argentina and the Falklands, or to them through Argentine waters, would henceforth require a permit. To underline how seriously the issue was being taken, the foreign ministry impounded a Danish-owned ship loaded with pipes in one of its ports

On February 5th, Minister of Defense Nilda Garre announced that Tandanor naval dockyards would proceed with the construction of four Fassmer Class Offshore Patrol Vessels (Patrulleras Oceanicas Multiproposito or POM), for surveillance of the South Atlantic.The German-designed ocean-going patrol boats, weigh only 1,850-tons but can carry torpedo-carrying helicopters and an array of other weapons. On February 25th, it was reported that there was at least one nuclear submarine on patrol off the coast of the Falklands/Malvinas, which had been reinforced by Special Air Service (SAS) Commandoes.On February 26th, British defence officials said a 5,000-ton Royal Navy destroyer came into contact with an Argentine Navy warship in late January in the so-called conservation zone, the area where Britain is carrying out oil exploration. The Type-42 destroyer HMS York intercepted the 1,170-ton Argentinian corvette ARA Drummond in an apparent escalation of the row over the Falkland/Malvinas Islands.

Magazine Opinion

In 2009, she was ranked by the magazine Forbes as eleventh in the list of the 100 most powerful women in the world.

External links

Cristina Fernandez on Honduras Coup

Office of the President

Official site of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Senate of the Argentine Republic website

Extensive biography by CIDOB Foundation
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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner


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