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Argentina no stranger to popular pols

In Argentina, as everywhere in the Western Hemisphere, the news of the symbolic 100-day threshold of Barack Obama's presidential term is getting drowned out by news of the swine flu facing North America. Of course, even news of a northern epidemic tends to focus on Obama's relevant statements and actions, in a way that one might not expect if the president didn't have the cult of personality that he enjoys throughout the world.

But there's just no ignoring Obama's popularity, at least in Argentina, and that's the feature of his presidency that publications here are singling out. One can smell the envy in reports reprinting the Washington Post's recent poll showing a 69 percent popularity for Obama — fewer than 30 percent of Argentines approve of their own president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Perhaps there's a whiff of nostalgia, too. It was not that long ago that they had a president even more popular at home than Obama: Cristina's husband, Nestor Kirchner, had the approval of 73 percent of his country only three years ago.

A review of Obama's first 100 days by the news agency Telam on Tuesday emphasized Obama's attitude of openness and humility with regard to other countries, and asserted that "the promises of his intention to open dialogue with allies and rivals had its maximum expression on April 13," the day that Obama announced a relaxing of policy toward Cuba. And in an exclusive interview with Argentina's leading newspaper Clarin on Tuesday, Bolivia's president Evo Morales said that Cuba dominated discussion at the Summit of the Americas even more than was reported in the papers. It remains clear that in Argentina and Latin America, Obama's Cuba policy has been a point of high emotion.