Falklands again? Why Argentina's Kirchner keeps pushing the issue with Britain.
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“If it occurs to the British Empire to attack the Falklands, Argentina won’t be alone this time,” Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said last year. With Chávez’s future uncertain due to recent health concerns, Kirchner could be trying to position herself as the leader who replaces him as the resounding voice of the South American left.
Kirchner also made a stand over the Falklands at the UN’s decolonization committee last year, and sanctioned a controversial TV commercial showing an Argentine field hockey player training for last summer’s London Olympics in Port Stanley, the islands’ capital.
The populist methods sit well among her supporters, who parade “The Malvinas are Argentine” flags at government rallies. And given that Kirchner's approval rating has dipped to roughly 35 percent – a decline of about 30 percent – in opinion polls since her reelection in October 2011, playing the Falklands card is viewed by some analysts as a way to halt that slide.
Beyond the Falkland Islands
Aside from the Falklands, Kirchner’s debt-reduction plan – accompanied by interventionist economic policy – and push for social inclusion are the pillars of her national and popular policies.
Next week, the Fragata Libertad – a ship embargoed in Ghana by an American-based holdout creditor that is demanding payment after having rejected debt exchanges on the back of Argentina’s 2002 default – will arrive at Mar del Plata, a city in Buenos Aires province.
Kirchner will be there to receive it. In her bid to reestablish Argentina’s economic sovereignty, she accused an American judge of “judicial colonialism” after he recently ruled that the holdout creditors should be paid.
The economy and the Falklands are both essential to Kirchner’s "Nac & Pop" strategy, and are likely to continue to be used for political gain.