Geopolitics

Don't Cry For Her Argentina: Kirchner Plays Victim One Too Many Times

Political drama may have once served Argentine President Kirchner, but now national debt, corruption and the suspicious death of a prosecutor are turning the people against her.

Almost time to say goodbye
Almost time to say goodbye
CFK Instagram
Uta Thofern

-Analysis-

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is and always has been a polarizing figure in Argentina. She's also made quite a name for herself around the world. Not since Eva Perón has the country produced a female political figure of such international renown. And in some respects the 61-year-old leader has even surpassed the iconic "Evita," who was happy to mostly just provide political support to her husband. Mrs. Kirchner, instead, has twice won elections in her own right.

Cristina, as she's known in Argentina, has done much for her country. But she has also deepened a historical rift between the Peronistas — political forces inspired by the social-democratic legacy of Gen. Juan Perón and his wife Evita — and their opponents. At this point it's unclear if the two sides can be reconciled at all.

For her supporters, Cristina has turned many of Evita's dreams into the law of the land. Her enemies say she has dragged the country into decadence, if not ridicule. You either love or hate her; with Cristina K. there's simply no middle ground.

Her greatest achievement is arguably the progress made in uncovering the crimes of the country's 1970s-era military junta. In the Peronist tradition, Kirchner has also increased social spending and expanded state control over various sectors. Her objective, in her own words, was to "recover the Argentine people's self-esteem."

Not just a legacy at stake

To do that, she chose a path of confrontation in both economic and foreign policy. This is illustrated by her calls on Great Britain to abandon the Falkland Islands and her later rejection of any agreement with the so-called vulture funds over Argentina's national debt.

The approach has proven costly. The economy is shrinking. And the technical default resulting from Argentine's dispute with creditor funds has damaged the country's credibility. Capital is becoming scarcer and firms see themselves obliged to negotiate in positions of weakness. Corruption and crime are increasing. State institutions are weaker. The debate over media policy has led Kirchner into a personal battle with the Clarín group, harming the credibility of the entire press.

The president has weathered challenge after challenge. She is an expert at taking accusations against her and turning them against her attackers. She has talent for drama. Who could forget in her re-election campaign, shortly after the death of her late husband Néstor Kirchner, when she appeared clad in mourning attire: all in black, though not without her designer dresses or jewelry, part and parcel as she sees it of a head of state's attire. She has a particular penchant for playing the role of victim, and playing it well, as even her opponents admit.

But is Cristina Kirchner finally losing her golden touch? The mysterious death of public prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who accused her of blocking, for political and economic reasons, investigations into the 1994 bomb attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, has provoked one of the worst crises of her presidency. Public protests demonstrate just how much Argentines have stopped trusting their government.

The president continues to communicate with Argentines through Facebook and Twitter, sharing her interpretation of events and elaborating on her various conspiracy theories. The public is used to this approach. But it's not what the people need right now.

What the country needs instead is for the the judiciary to operate indpendently as it grapples with the historic and internationally relevant Nisman case. Cristina owes it to the country to step beack and let the courts do their job and quickly. She should also do so for the sake of her own reputation, which even now, near the end of her second and final presidential term, is very much at stake. If she doesn't, Cristina risks being rememered as the leader who, after winning unprecedented victories, "lost all sense of reality."

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Society

Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.


The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.

Hollandse-Hoogte/ZUMA

Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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