Cristina Kirchner Has Plenty To Say, Just Not To The Press

Analysis: Whether it is for a factory opening or a ceremony honoring her hero, "Evita," Argentine leader Cristina Kirchner finds plenty of opportunities to speak. Many discourses, but not much dialogue.

Sylvia Colombo

BUENOS AIRES - Argentine President Cristina Kirchner does not give interviews. Nor does she request meetings with ministers. And yet she always makes herself well heard.

Over the past month, the president gave no fewer than 12 speeches. She has no trouble finding occasions to do so, be it the inauguration of a hydroelectric dam, an act on behalf of her deceased husband and presidential predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, or the opening of a new hall in Buenos Aires' Casa Rosada --her executive mansion and office, in honor of her heroine, Evita Peron.

As President Kirchner has isolated herself more and more, talking only to her closest political allies, her speeches have become her primary method of informing even her own ministers about her decisions and policy changes.

Human rights groups, particularly the Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, are always in attendance for her speeches. Organization leaders Hebe de Bonafini, 83, and Estela de Carlotto, 81, who have spent decades raising awareness about the thousands of people who disappeared during Argentina's period of military rule, show up every time, even when the topic is completely unrelated.

In mourning since Nestor Kirchner died in October 2010, Cristina keeps a pattern in her speeches. She usually refers to her late husband; compliments what she calls his "model," which includes a heavier presence of the state in economy; attacks mass media and powerful foreign countries; and reinforces the idea that her administration is "national" and "of the people."

Recently, more than 200 journalists gathered for a television show called Periodismo para Todos (Journalism for Everyone) to demand that the president speak with the press. The group included several well-known journalists, including Ricardo Kirschbaum, editor-in-chief of Clarin, the country's largest newspaper. They carried banners saying "we want to ask questions" and "no to the pro-government media."

The group presented 10 questions they would like to ask the president. Among other things, they want her to explain allegations of corruption and influence peddling involving the vice-president, Amado Boudou.

None of their questions were answered. Soon after the program aired, President Kirchner boarded a plane and flew off to Angola.

Photo: Presidencia de la Nacion Argentina

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

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.


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.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!