Dynasty In Argentina: Is Maximo Kirchner Bound To Follow Dad, Mom Into Presidency?

The Kirchners – first Néstor and then his wife, Cristina Fernández – have occupied Argentina’s Casa Rosada presidential palace since 2003. Could son Maximo, a rising political star, keep the family in power beyond 2016, when Cristina’s second term ends?

Maximo and Cristina Kirchner at the 2010 funeral of Nestor Kirchner (Wikipedia)
Maximo and Cristina Kirchner at the 2010 funeral of Nestor Kirchner (Wikipedia)
Christine Legrand

BUENOS AIRES – He cultivates a low profile, doesn't give interviews and never speaks in public. And yet Maximo Kirchner, 34, the eldest son of the Argentine president, is considered to be his mother's right-hand man. President Cristina Kirchner has admitted that Maximo "has always been her favorite," and her daughter, Florencia, 21, her late husband's favorite.

Since the death in 2010 of Néstor Kirchner, late husband of Cristina and president from 2003 to 2007, Maximo has appeared increasingly at Mrs. Kirchner's side, apparently filling the void left by his father, who governed in partnership with his wife. Though he has a larger build than his late father, Maximo has inherited Néstor Kirchner's gaze and casual dress sense, which contrasts with his mother's luxurious tastes.

Maximo first entered politics back in 2003, when he launched a youth movement to support the Kirchner government. The movement is called La Cámpora, after Hector Cámpora, a left-wing president elected in 1973. Cámpora was a supporter of Gen. Juan Domingo Perón, who had been exiled 18 years earlier. Campora resigned 49 days after being elected, clearing a path for Perón – upon returning from exile – to be elected with 62% of votes.

In the wake of Néstor Kirchner's death, La Cámpora mobilized hundreds of demonstrators, assuring his widow of their unconditional support. For her second term, Cristina Kirchner has placed her trust in this new generation: her cabinet chief, Juan Manuel Abal Medina, 43, is the nephew of one of the founders of Montoneros, the Peronist guerrilla group in the 60s and 70s. He is the son of one of Perón's closest representatives. The president's deputy ministers of the economy and justice also hail from the La Cámpora movement.

La Cámpora currently holds eight seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Argentine National Congress, and more than 20 seats in regional legislative councils. Many of the La Cámpora militants work for government ministries or head public companies, such as Aerolineas Argentinas, a state run airline. The support Kirchner has received from the next generation has provoked tensions with the Confederación General de Trabajo (CGT) trade union. Hugo Moyano, director of the CGT, called La Cámpora's members a bunch of "rich kids."

"A smart kid"

Anibal Fernandez, senator and ex-cabinet chief for the Kirchners, brushes off the idea that Maximo enjoys "growing influence" in public affairs, describing him instead as "a smart kid, an activist who has earned the right to give his opinion and who is in charge of a movement that includes lots of remarkable politicians."

After abandoning his law studies, Maximo settled in Río Gallegos, the capital of the Santa Cruz region in the south of Argentina and his father's home town. From there he administers the family fortune. He travels to Buenos Aires regularly to meet with Cristina's inner circle of advisors, and continues to oversee the running of La Cámpora from behind the scenes.

Rumors suggest he doesn't have a good relationship with the vice-president, Amado Boudou. Maximo's hermit-esque nature clashes with the joviality of this ex-minister of the economy. Boudou, 50, is of French descent and was quite conservative in his youth, but now likes to give the impression he's a rocker: playing the guitar in meetings and riding a Harley Davidson.

Recently, Boudou had to assume a far more hands-on role, replacing the president while she recovered from a Jan. 4 thyroid operation. In late December Cristina Kirchner was mistakenly diagnosed with cancer. She resumed her position earlier this week.

The Argentine Constitution prevents Cristina Kirchner, who was reelected last October, from setting her sights on a third consecutive term. Argentina's next presidential election is set for 2015. Some in the media, however, are already speculating about the possibility that Maximo could run in the 2013 general elections, using this as a springboard to the presidency. Only time will tell whether Argentines really do like to keep everything in the family.

Read more from Le Monde in French

Photo – Wikipedia

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

The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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