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Okay, I confess: I am not one of those reporters that relishes political squabbles. Frankly, I find the back-and-forth bickering of politicians back at home in the U.S. insufferable.
But here in Argentina, it's somehow different. I might go so far as to call it entertaining. Sort of like a cross between a "futbol" match and a "telenovela." The dramatic push-and-pull, the masculine brutality and feminine coquettishness of the tango writ large. As out-sizedly large as the 20 lanes of 9th of July Avenue running through downtown Buenos Aires, and with a similar conceit as the street: Locals habitually claim it to be the broadest avenue in the world, when it can't even claim the title for South America. The daily triumphal trumpeting, like President Cristina Fernandez's "I-told-you-so" pointing at the northern developed world, which, according to her, is just now waking up to the interventionist economic policies that Argentina has implemented for years. If that's so, here's hoping that the rest of the world doesn't follow Argentina's roller-coaster financial cycles too.
Meanwhile, there are much more important matters in Argentine news.
Such as the top headline in yesterday's Buenos Aires Herald, the nation's foremost English-language daily: that two particular (and not particularly important) bickering congressmen "have no quarrel" with each other. Next to an old photo of the two in cozier yesteryears, one is quoted as calling the other "a bit temperamental." And so here's hoping that they kiss (on the cheek, of course, macho Argentine-style) and make up, and go back to being BFFs, so that Argentines can get on with their lives.
Sure, the he-said-she-said can get a bit mind-numbing — trying to keep track of all the myriad yelling voices vying for attention, the array of interests and advocates and political parties. Not to mention the scare tactics and the rumor mill, which most recently snagged three days of headlines when someone "leaked" that the president was thinking of nationalizing grain exports. No proposals, no pronouncements — only rumors that passed as quickly as they surfaced. The timing of the leak was literary: a year almost to the day after the president fell out of grace with the farmers by raising their taxes.
No soap opera would be complete, of course, without a love interest.
In Argentina, the tall, dark stranger is Argentina's last president, the current president's husband, Nestor Kirchner. He holds no officially elected public office, but Cristina is rarely seen without Nestor by her side, and nary a news report about La Presidenta passes without mentioning El Ex-Presidente. He left office with much higher approval ratings than his wife has won; but unfortunately for him, his reputation seems to have been sullied by association this term. Looks like he might fashion for himself the chance to get it back on his own terms, though: He's reportedly looking to run for congress. That's right: from the highest office in the land to (for all practical purposes, the highest office in the land again, to) the legislature, representing a province where he has never held office. But there's rhyme and reason in the attempt, which might succeed is extending Kirchnerism's reach from the Pink House (that's their White House) into the congress.
And they want to waste no time in doing it. The president has — quite out of the blue, and as a result of what newspapers say were "secret deliberations" with her First Gentleman at the presidential mansion — called for a change to the electoral code in order to hold this year's elections four months earlier than planned. Why? She says it would be "suicidal" for the country to spend the next seven months embroiled in election campaigns while the world is in economic crisis.
Of course, the new proposal will consume the attention of the government for at least the next week or two. The idea, supposedly, is that they can afford the distraction now, but things are only going to get worse later in the year. Then the president, in the same breath, says that already "the sky is falling" — hardly a good time for a rushed election. But perhaps she was just being a bit melodramatic.