Former president of Argentina Nestor Kirchner dies

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The sudden death of Nestor Kirchner, the Secretary General of UNASUR (Union of South American Nations), former president of Argentina and husband of the current president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has saddened and shaken Latin America. And now the right wing associated with the Argentine ruling class and international finance capital have their hopes up that they can reverse his progressive policies.

Kirchner, who was born in 1950, died of a heart attack at his home in el Calafate, Santa Cruz Province, on October 27.

Kirchner came out of the left-wing youth movement of the Justicialist Party, founded by President Juan Peron.  But while some sectors of that party had embarked on a fascist trajectory, the Justicialist left had fought against the regime of Isabela Peron and then the bloody right-wing dictatorship which succeeded her.

Once the dictatorship ended, Kirchner entered electoral politics, winning the post of mayor of Rio Gallegos, Santa Cruz province, in 1986. He was elected governor of Santa Cruz province in 1991, and was considered to have provided competent and honest leadership characterized by benefits to the working class, leading to his reelection in 1995. Meanwhile the Justicialist president, Carlos Menem, was disgracing himself with massive corruption scandals. Kirchner began to be seen as the Peronist left's answer to people like Menem. Subsequent to Menem's presidency and that of his successor Eduardo Duhalde, the presidency passed into the hands of the Alliance Party's Fernando de la Rua, who instituted sharper neo-liberal policies.

By 2001, the Argentine economy was on the ropes, and there was massive protest against the austerity program of the regime. Duhalde was brought back and instituted a sharp devaluation of the currency. By this time there was massive rejection of the entire spectrum of parties and leaders at the national level.

Kirchner was elected president on a left wing platform in 2003, but with a low vote total. Initially, many on the left did not trust him and thought he had been put in by the Peronists to pour cold water on the wave of factory seizures   that was then going on.

But Kirchner stood up to right wing forces, including the coup prone military, allied himself with other left-wing governments in the hemisphere and, to the amazement of all, successfully forced international lending agencies to restructure Argentina's debt by the simple method of telling them that if they didn't restructure, they would not get a penny. 

Kirchner continued to work to integrate the economies and societies of Latin American nations and to help them overcome imperialist hegemony. He and his team have played a role in the creation of key integrative organizations such as MERCOSUR and UNASUR  . When his term ended in 2007, his wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, was elected by a much bigger vote that he had got.  She played a strong role in trying to reverse the coup in Honduras in June of 2009.

But both the traditionalist right and the Peronist right are still strong in Argentina, and they managed to deprive Cristina Fernandez of her legislative majority in 2009. It was thought that Nestor Kirchner would be a strong presidential candidate in the general elections in October of 2011.  Thus, while most of Latin America mourned Kirchner's death, there was an instant uptick in the market for Argentine bonds, and business groups were all but openly joyful about the possibility of the right taking over the Argentine presidency once more.

The Secretary General of the Communist Party of Argentina, Patricio Echegaray, summarized in a statement Wednesday what Latin America owes to Nestor Kirchner:

"In the context of the processes of change which are happening in our America, the measures taken by ex-president in favor of the people's sectors, Latin American integration, respect for human rights and the return to political debate, are an integral part of the legacy which Argentine society enjoys today [which allows us] to keep on advancing along the road of justice and social inclusion.

"From the Communist Party we extend our condolences to Madame President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and to his relatives and comrades in the struggle"

These feelings extended beyond Argentina's borders. Prensa Latina reported that Bolivian President Evo Morales praised Kirchner's "great commitment and faithfulness to South American integration", defining his death as "a painful and irreparable loss for Argentina, South America and the world". 

Photo: Nestor Kirchner, wikipedia commons  

 

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  • Well written article but let me add few more things as I observed in Buenos Aires. One thing is that massive outpouring of Argentinians, especially young ones, at one point the line to pay last respect was more than 2 km long, and some of them stayed and slept on the street to pay their respect next morning. I do not think that the reactionary circle both in Argentina and the US expected this huge general sympathys to him as well as Cristina. People here are saying that her chance of re-election has been improved lot. I finally succeeded in entering Casa Rosada (presidential palace) on the 3rd attempt. Let me point out one things I noticed: to get in, no body check nor E-xay check. Even ID was not requested. This is a huge contrast with the US or the EU. That is, Argentina has not invaded nor sent military force to other coutries. This is the reflection of the peaceful nature of many Latin American coutries.
    Now the very important aspect of Kirchner in terms of the Latin American and world prospect as well as for Argentina: he has succeeded in weakening the Washington concensus, tremendously weakening the IMF and the Washington's hand. Now IMF can not impose condtionality as it did in the past. He achieved this more or less single handedly with some help of Chavez or Venezuela. This is a historical achievement of his as well as people of Latin America.
    In addition, he repealed the law which gave immunity to the crimials of the Argentinian military, which killed over 30,000 Argentinians. This is a significant achievement of his, in terms of world wide effect.
    Now Cristina is fighting against concentration of mass media around Clarin (daily newspaper) group and she has won this battle almost 100%. We know now how important media are in politics.
    There are many more achievements of his, for which Argentinians are saying "Gracious, Nestor".

    Posted by kotoko tateishi, 10/31/2010 6:22pm (4 years ago)

  • Painful and irreparable loss? Ha! More like "Hey ho the witch is dead!"
    "Competent and honest leadership"? Where did this come from!! The man was a thief and an all around crook. His family has stolen millions from the Argentine government.
    Of course they mention "benefits to the working class", but buying votes from impoverished people from bordering who'd do anything just to get Argentine citizenship and healthcare and thereby filling Argentine shanty towns with more poverty is hardly a "benefit".

    Posted by Claire, 10/28/2010 5:22pm (4 years ago)

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