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Argentine Political Outlook (Ene-23-20) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Ene-20-23, by Rosendo Fraga

1. Alberto Fernández's trip to Israel is the most relevant foreign policy action of his brief government. He will participate in a meeting organized by the Netanyahu government, in memory of the Holocaust and on the occasion of the entry of the allies in the Auschwitz concentration camp. The alliance between the USA and Israel is the strongest in decades. Fernández will be the first Argentine president to visit this country, since Carlos Menem did almost three decades ago. In addition, the visit takes place on the fifth anniversary of Nisman's death, a sensitive issue for both Washington and Tel Aviv. This happens at a time when the tension of the Trump and Netanyahu governments with Iran is the strongest in years, with military escalation included and this country is accused of the two suicide bombings of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism suffered by Argentina in 1992 and 1994. The key to the domestic policy is to what extent the decision to travel to Israel is an initiative of Alberto Fernández that has the endorsement of Vice President Cristina Kirchner or not. The Government House asserts that she agrees with the trip, but Kirchnerism chooses to keep silent. 

2. The fifth anniversary of Nisman's death shows the combination of a foreign policy issue with a domestic policy issue. The death of the Prosecutor, hours before he was to denounce the then President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner before Congress for intending to "cover up" the Iranians accused of the terrorist attacks of the 1990s generated two contradictory interpretations. In 2015, the last year of Cristina's second term, she stated that it had been a "suicide" caused by the lack of evidence to support her accusations. A Federal Police expert's report held this position. In 2016, another expert's report issued by the Gendarmerie argued otherwise, claiming that it had been murder, generating suspicions about the eventual participation of the previous government. A few days after the current government took over, the Minister of Security (Frederic) stated it was necessary to "review" the second expert's report. In this context, one of the Iranians accused of the attacks (Rabbani) at the height of the military escalation between the United States and Iran said the Prosecutor had been "killed," directing his accusation toward Washington. The commemoration of the fifth anniversary of Nisman's demise that took place on January 18, was led by the PRO under the slogan that it was "murder" and this led to the retraction of important sectors of the Jewish community, which on Jan 19 paid another tribute in the cemetery of La Tablada. 

3. There is no confrontation between the President and the Vice President, but differences emerge between Kirchnerism and the Administration. One of them is the aforementioned Nisman case. One of the most important allies of Alberto Fernández, who is the President of the Lower House, Sergio Massa, said that for him it had been "homicide," confronting figures close to the Vice President, such as the Minister of Security of the Province of Buenos Aires, Sergio Berni. Another difference was the affirmation of the President that in Argentina there were no "political prisoners", referring to the corruption cases of Kirchenrism. This generated a strong reaction from the entire K sector, from Hebe Bonafini, who demanded that the President defined on "which side is he", intellectuals like Forster who contradicted him saying that "yes", there were political prisoners in Argentina. The Interior Minister (De Pedro) also said that in his opinion there were. Prisoners such as Milagro Sala and Amado Boudou, already convicted and detained, appeared on the media claiming that they were "political prisoners." At this point the difference between Kirchnerism and Albertism became evident. 

4. The visit paid by the Argentine President to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis on January 31 is a foreign policy move with an internal impact. The affection of the Argentine Pope for Peronism is not hidden, nor are his messages in the months prior to the election about it competing united, as a necessary condition for winning. Just as the Pope never received Cristina since leaving the Presidency, he did receive Alberto Fernández before taking over. For both, the President and the Vice President, the support and relationship with the Pope are important from the point of view of domestic policy. The comings and goings with the appointment of the new Ambassador to the Vatican are not relevant. But it is the Executive's bill to legalize abortion, which raises a conflict between the government and the Catholic Church. The ruling party seeks alternatives to mitigate it. The other thing that may arise is a suggestion by Francis to close the trials against the military and police for human rights violations in the repression of the seventies, which will complete three decades when Alberto completes his term. In mid-January, the Pope sent 50 rosaries for those arrested for this case - there are more than a thousand including those with house prison - being the first signal he generated in this regard. It is not an easy suggestion to accept for the presidential binomial. Both the trip to Israel and to the Vatican will cause Cristina Kirchner to replace Alberto in the exercise of the Presidency. It will be a political fact rather than symbolic, her return to the Executive branch. 

5. To conclude: 

a) Alberto Fernandez' visit to Israel is the most transcendental event in foreign policy under his brief tenure, and also entails an approach to the Trump administration. 

b) The fifth commemoration of Nisman's death showed Kirchnerism stating it was ‘suicide', Cambiemos claiming it was ‘assassination' and Sergio Massa calling it ‘murder'. 

c) The debate on whether those arrested due to K corruption are ‘political prisoners' or not creates an overt difference between Kirchnerism -which asserts they are- and Alberto Fernandez, who held the opposite. 

d) The president's visit to the Vatican is relevant for the presidential binomial, which seeks its support out of political convenience, but they will have to solve suggestions on abortion and trials against the military.  

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