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Argentine Political Outlook (Dic-28-20) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Dic-28-20, by Rosendo Fraga

1. Year 2020 ends with the same political question as when it began: the roles of the president and vice president in power. There are those who think that after the vice president's criticism of the Cabinet at the La Plata ceremony, the president's defense of his officials and the invitation to a barbecue for the entire Cabinet have been a political response to such criticism. What is more: there are those who argue that this starts a "counterattack" by Alberto Fernández in order to rebuild his image in terms of power. It should be noted that polls show that two out of three think that the vice president's influence on decisions is greater than his. But it may just be a gesture. The replacement of the ambassador to China -Luis Kreckler- seems to show that the president only generated a political gesture, not a change of strategy in relation to the vice president. The name of the new ambassador confirms that for decisions, the power of Cristina Kirchner is what counts. Until now, the commercial chief of the embassy, who did not come from the diplomatic corps, was SabinoVacaNarvaja -son of one of the founders of Montoneros and brother of her daughter's ex-husband-, a sort of parallel ambassador with a direct line to the Vice-presidency and who will now be the ambassador.Cristina Kirchner thus ends up consolidating her direct control over three bilateral relations: China, Russia and Cuba. In the second to last, for two months Eduardo Zuain has been the ambassador. He was her deputy foreign minister during her second term, while the ambassador to Cuba appointed a month and a half ago is Luis Ilarregui, a man close to her. It is thus confirmed that at the time of appointing the positions,Cristina makes the decision. This explains Alberto Fernández's resistance to changing the questioned ministers: it is not only to avoid the image that he gives in to pressure from her, but also so that the replacements do not respond to the Vice Presidency. 

2. But the central political battle these days is centered on the control of Buenos Aires Peronism. The discussion on the ministers remains open. The criticism against the Minister of Justice, Marcela Losardo, one of the members of the Cabinet that the president defends the most, and of Foreign Minister Felipe Solá, whose action is widely discussed inside and outside the Government House, does not fade in Kirchnerism. The purpose of the rally in La Plata was to unify Peronism against the Buenos Aires election that decides the result of mid-term election of October 2021. Kirchnerism decided that Máximo Kirchner is the president of the Justicialist party of the province of Buenos Aires. The current president of the party is the mayor of Esteban Echeverría, Fernando Gray, who has a mandate until December 2021with the agreement of the justicialist mayors of the province. The Minister of the Interior, Wado de Pedro, asked him to resign last week to offer the position to the son of the vice president. Behind this, La Cámpora seeks to advance on the municipalities of Greater Buenos Aires to consolidate its territorial political power. Two thirds of the mayors in this area cannot stand for reelection due to the law enacted under the Vidal government, which allows only one reelection. For La Cámpora, which recognizes Máximo's national leadership, this is the opportunity to occupy positions in a field that for the most part is alien to it. The mayors have begun to discuss ways to resist the onslaught. ForMáximo to assume office a year before the terms end, the authorities of the PJ and its congress must resign, which does not seem easy. In relation to the mayors' queries to the president about his position, he is thought to have replied that he "supports Máximo" in this move, but that he "does not help him", an answer that was not satisfactory. The president's public statements backing Máximo's candidacy politically showed his alignment with the vice president once again. 

3. The ruling party focuses efforts on Tuesday, December 29, when it hopes to obtain the final approval of the pension reform in the Lower House and abortion in the Senate. In the view of the Administration, these actions will strengthen the presidential image, criticized in recent weeks. The pension reform, which has already been tempered by the vice president in the Senate and has been dispatched by commission, is important for the president's economic credibility. It can be argued how effective this measure is in the negotiations with the IMF, but without it, it becomes more difficult to achieve it.Regarding the abortion law, it is clear that its approval benefits the president, who promoted and defended the bill, more than the vice president, who has remained silent. The outcome of this vote is unclear, given the equal number of senators in both, one and the other position, and the half-dozen who still do not have a defined position. Regarding the national vaccination plan, the Government continues to play with the idea of the "epic" action in terms of the political meaning that it intends to give it. It is not easy to achieve it.For 2021, the president plays the victory card for the October election for this idea, while the vice president maintains that the election cannot be sacrificed to the economy. The tug of war with the increase in rates is a good example of the tensions between them due to the economic issue. 

4. But the vaccination is showing the political impact of foreign relations on it and the improvisation of the Government in its execution. It is clear that the Government's option for the Russian Sputnik V vaccine had a political rather than a health origin. At the same time, the delays with the Pfizer vaccine are also linked to the distancing of the United States by the Fernández-Fernández government. The search for Chinese vaccines - which caused the ambassador's displacement in Beijing - also has a political ingredient. For two months now, the vice president has been playing a decisive role in these two foreign relations, as was said.Added to this is that vaccination is subjected to the broad current political interests. Since the issue of mass vaccination emerged in November as something possible in the short termat the international level, the Argentine government has considered being the first country in Latin America to begin vaccinating its population and one of the first in the world. This largely explains the disorderly management with Russia in its negotiation. The reality is that even today, Argentina did not begin to vaccinate and in Latin America, Mexico, Chile and Costa Rica have already done so with the Pfizer vaccine. On Sunday afternoon, Dec 27, the president said, "we are among the less than 10 countries that begin to vaccinate before the end of the year", when the 27 countries of the European Union began vaccination that same Sunday.The United States, Great Britain and a dozen other countries have already started. Meanwhile, the end of the year ends showing an ideological shift of the ruling party: a phrase by Jorge Luis Borges ("Nobody is the homeland, but we all are") was removed from the facade of the Kirchner Cultural Center, while in Río Gallegos, a statue of General Julio Roca was removed without the resolution from the Deliberative Council. 


5. To conclude: 

a. The president's defense of his ministers seems more like a declaratory gesture than an act of power, as evidenced by the replacement of the ambassador in Beijing. 

b. The main political move of Kirchnerism has become Máximo Kirchner's new presidency of the Buenos Aires PJ, to which the president seems to have bowed. 

c.  The Administration wants to end the year on December 29 with the final approval of the pension reform and the abortion law, starting the vaccination campaign on the same day. 

d. The decision on the acquisition of vaccines showed a clear political option for Russia and China, while the campaign appears dominated by circumstantial political interests.

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